“Swaziland’s Cooperatives No Threat to Banks.” By Mantoe Phakathi. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 8, 2012. Nomsa Tsabedze is one of the many people at the Bunye Betfu, Buhle Betfu Credit and Savings Cooperatives waiting to apply for a loan to pay for her children’s school fees. “Unlike banks, there is no collateral required before you get a loan from a cooperative,” said Tsabedze, adding: “If you’re a member of a cooperative, you’re guaranteed a loan depending on how much you’ve saved.” For the past five years, ever since she started working as a clerk in the public service, Tsabedze has been saving and obtaining loans from the cooperative. But while Tsabedze and thousands like her have chosen to put their money in cooperatives as opposed to banks, many in this Southern African nation feel that this poses no risk to the banking industry. This is despite concerns by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the country’s increasingly popular 230 savings and cooperatives pose a threat to commercial banks. In a recent assessment, the IMF said that it was concerned that people are shunning commercial banks in favour of cooperatives. “This is because loans from cooperatives are more accessible to the Swazi population and do not have appropriate risk weighted safeguards,” reads the report released in December. While commercial banks are viewed as risk averse and reluctant to lend, cooperatives have become the preferred lender for civil servants, in particular. There are four commercial banks in the country and one building society, which operates as a bank.
“Rich or poor? Gillard plans to put it all online this year.” By Dan Harrison. Sydney Morning Herald. January 29, 2010. The financial resources of every school in Australia will be on public display in the next version of Julia Gillard’s My School website, due later this year. State and territory governments and Catholic and independent school authorities agreed a year ago to provide the information but have not yet been able to devise a measure that allows fair comparisons between government, Catholic and independent schools. Peter Hill, the chief executive of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which is responsible for My School, said data about each school’s financial resources would be published in a second version of the site, along with results from this year’s national literacy and numeracy tests. ”A lot of people will be very interested in finances of schools, because, of course, some schools have much more in terms of financial resources than others and this may go a long way to explaining some of the differences we’re observing,” Dr Hill said. He said financial data would not be used to determine ”similar” schools to which schools could be readily compared but would be displayed on the site separately. Many parents had difficulty using the site after it was launched yesterday.
“Invest in public schools – survey.” Sydney Morning Herald. February 6, 2012.
CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL
“Catholic Leaders Convene to Discuss Abuse Prevention.” By Elisabetta Povoledo. New York Times. February 6, 2012. Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church began a four-day symposium on Monday about the prevention of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, an unprecedented assembly described by the Vatican as a response to a painful issue that has wracked the church and estranged many faithful. “We are still learning,” Cardinal William J. Levada, head of the Vatican office that deals with allegations of clerical abuse, told the 200 delegates during his keynote speech. “We need to help each other find the best ways to help victims, protect children,” he said, and to educate priests “to be aware of this scourge and to eliminate it from the priesthood.” More than 100 bishops and 30 religious superiors, as well as Catholic university rectors and abuse victims were participating in the symposium, titled “Toward Healing and Renewal.” Participants planned to discuss how the church can better listen to victims, cultivate a consistent response to cases of pedophilia and thwart future cases of abuse.
“Cardinal Egan Criticized for Retracting Apology on Sexual Abuse Crisis.” By Andy Newman. New York Times. February 7, 2012. In 2002, at the height of the outcry over the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests, the Archbishop of New York, Edward M. Egan, issued a letter to be read at Mass. In it, he offered an apology about the church’s handling of sex-abuse cases in New York and in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was previously posted. “It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem,” he wrote. “If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.” Now, 10 years later and in retirement, Cardinal Egan has taken back his apology.In an interview in the February issue of Connecticut magazine, a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.” He said many more things in the interview, some of them seemingly at odds with the facts. He repeatedly denied that any sex abuse had occurred on his watch in Bridgeport. He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.) And he described the Bridgeport diocese’s handling of sex-abuse cases as “incredibly good.” All of which has Cardinal Egan, now 79 and living in Manhattan, drawing fire from advocates who say he has reopened old wounds.
“Retired Cardinal Edward Egan Faces Criticism For Taking Back Abuse Apology.” Huffington Post. February 7, 2012.
“Archbishop ‘appalled’ at paedophile priest.” No by-line. Times of London. February 8, 2012.
“Cleric warns of silence on sex abuse in Asia; Culture keeping victims in hiding, he says at meeting.” Boston Globe/Associated Press. February 10, 2012.
“Pennsylvania: Answers Sought in Cardinal’s Death.” New York Times/Associated Press. February 10, 2012.
“With Vatican’s Backing, Catholics Address Sex Abuse.” All Things Considered/ National Public Radio. February 10, 2012.
“Retired Maine priest under investigation for sex abuse.” Bangor Daily News/Associated Press. February 11, 2012
“Sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican withdrawn.” USA Today. December 12, 2012.
“China Fund to Support Film Projects Worldwide.” By Michael Cieply. New York Times. February 6, 2012. If Chinese versions of Rupert Murdoch and Oprah Winfrey teamed up with, say, China’s J. P. Morgan to start a film fund, this would be it. Sun Media Group, founded by Bruno Wu, who is often compared to Mr. Murdoch, and his wife, Yang Lan, sometimes likened to Ms. Winfrey, is joining Harvest Fund Management to create an $800 million fund that will back entertainment ventures in China and around the world, company executives said Saturday. “The goal is pretty straightforward; it’s to make a maximum return, of course, for the investors,” Mr. Wu said of the enterprise, which is aimed at a booming Chinese market for global film. He and Lindsay Wright, the vice chairman of a Harvest global investment unit, spoke jointly by telephone. The fund, called Harvest Seven Stars Media Private Equity, is expected to invest in existing entertainment companies. But it also will provide backing for individual filmmakers and build an entertainment distribution system in China and elsewhere, Mr. Wu and Ms. Wright said. Its initial pool of capital, they added, will probably be expanded in the near future. Last year, the Motion Picture Association of America said it expected the number of cinema screens in China to increase to more than 16,000 in 2015 from about 6,200 in 2011, as Chinese box-office receipts grow to a projected $5 billion from $1.5 billion. At the same time, China has been under pressure from the entertainment industry in the United States to ease censorship, open its markets and crack down on chronic film piracy. “The awareness, and urge, and strong desire to protect” intellectual property has never been higher in China, Mr. Wu said. He and others, he said, have been lobbying the Chinese government for tougher antipiracy measures.
“Religion and the Communist Party: Render unto Caesar; The party’s conservative wing finds religion—and dislikes it.” The Economist. February 11, 2012. There was a time when Devon Chang had difficulty reconciling his two chosen faiths: Christianity, which he embraced in 2005 at the age of 19, and the Communist Party of China, which had embraced him a year earlier. Did his submission to an almighty God not mean he must renounce the godless club of Marx and Mao? Not necessarily. A fellow convert’s university lecturer suggested that if all Communist Party members found Jesus, then Christianity could rule China. “So it’s a good thing for me to become a Christian,” Mr Chang reasoned. In this section. The party does not quite see it that way. Although people join the party more for career reasons these days than for ideological ones, it still officially forbids religious belief among its members. In practice, this has for some years been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But signs are now growing that the party is about to become tougher on believers within its ranks. And behind it might be Mr Chang’s notion of Christianity as a Trojan horse. If you can’t beat ’em… Experts say that, of China’s 1.3 billion people, 200m to 300m now practise religion (though the government admits to only 100m), and far more engage in the veneration of ancestors. The vast majority of the religious are Buddhists or Daoists. Estimates for the number of Christians vary wildly from 50m to 100m (they are hard to count because so many believers go to underground “house churches”). Across the country, local governments have rebuilt temples and constructed new ones to capitalise on religious tourism. In rural areas, temples and churches have helped provide education and health care, with the unofficial blessing of local party chiefs.
“Egypt Names 19 Americans in Probe; Inclusion of U.S. Workers Among 43 NGO Employees Facing Charges Over Foreign Funding Raises Tensions, Jeopardizes Aid.” By Matt Bradley. Wall Street Journal. February 7, 2012. Egypt’s judicial ministry named the 43 nongovernmental organization employees, including 19 Americans, who will face charges in an investigation over foreign funding that has shaken Washington’s faith in one of its closest security allies in the Middle East. The ministry said the workers will be charged with establishing NGOs without licenses and receiving and spending foreign funds without government permission—both breaches of Egypt’s highly restrictive NGO law. If convicted, the workers could face financial penalties and up to five years in prison. The published list adds a shade of clarity to a legal case against American and Egyptian pro-democracy groups that has troubled and confused American policy makers and NGO employees since the summer. The case implies that Egyptian prosecutors believe the American government is committing espionage to undermine the Egyptian state even as it funds Egypt’s ruling military with a $1.3 billion annual grant—the U.S.’s second-largest aid package to any peacetime country after Israel. While Egypt’s military rulers and the civilian government it appointed insist the investigation into foreign funding is a legal effort by an independent judiciary to enforce national law, civil-society workers said the case smacks of scapegoating by a military leadership that has come under severe strain and criticism. Prosecutors said the groups violate Egyptian law by operating without licenses, while the foreign NGO leaders said their repeated applications for official credentials have been ignored.
“Egypt to prosecute Americans, including Sam LaHood, in NGO probe.” Washington Post. February 5, 2012.
“Egypt Defies U.S. by Setting Trial for 19 Americans on Criminal Charges.” New York Times. February 5, 2012.
“U.S. Aid At Risk As Egypt Targets Democracy Groups.” All Things Considered?National Public Radio. February 6, 2012.
“Egypt to Charge Foreign Workers; Americans Among Those Facing Trial.” Wall Street Journal. February 6, 2012.
“Egypt defies US with ‘unrest’ trial for 19 Americans; One of those to go on trial is the son of US Transport Secretary Ray LaHood, seen here with Barack Obama.” Times of London. February 6, 2012.
“Egypt defies US with ‘unrest’ trial for 19 Americans
One of those to go on trial is the son of US Transport Secretary Ray LaHood, seen here with Barack Obama.” Times of London. February 6, 2012.
“Egypt Spirals Down; The military government trumps up a criminal case against foreigners, including American citizens.” Wall Street Journal. February 6, 2012.
“Egyptian Judge Details Charges Against NGO Workers.” All Things Considered/ National Public Radio. February 8, 2012.
“Egypt Judges Detail Evidence Against Americans, Others.” Wall Street Journal. February 9, 2012.
“Egypt’s Premier Vows Not to Yield in Prosecuting 19 Americans.” New York Times. February 9, 2012.
“What Do Democracy Promoters Actually Do?” Morning Edition/National Public Radio. February 9, 2012.
“In Egypt, NGO crackdown and draft law have chilling effect.” Washington Post. February 11, 2012.
“Architect of Egypt’s NGO crackdown is Mubarak holdover.” Washington Post. February 7, 2012.
“New Egypt More Distrustful Than Old, U.S. Groups Say.” Wall Street Journal. February 8, 2012.
“NGO Prosecution Puts U.S.-Egyptian Ties at Risk.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 8, 2012.
“US senators warn Egypt of ‘disastrous’ rupture in ties.” BBC News. February 8, 2012.
“In Egypt, NGO crackdown and draft law have chilling effect.” By Ernesto London. Washington Post. February 11, 2012.
“Guggenheim to Close Berlin Outpost.” By Carol Vogel. New York Times. February 6, 2012. After 15 years, Deutsche Guggenheim, an outpost of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Berlin, is closing at the end of the year. The decision to end the partnership between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank was announced in Berlin on Monday morning. Neither the bank nor the Guggenheim gave a concrete reason for the decision, saying only that their contract expires at the end of 2012. “Since 1997, when Deutsche Guggenheim was established under the leadership of Thomas Krens, its program has played an essential role in the development of contemporary art in Berlin,” Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, said in a statement. “Berlin today is a very different city from what it was when we began. We feel the time is right now to step back and re-examine our collaboration to see how it might evolve.’’ Over the years the Guggenheim has held 57 exhibitions and attracted 1.8 million visitors. It also commissioned 17 artists — among them John Baldessari, Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter and James Rosenquist — to create new works that were first shown at Deutsche Guggenheim. The end of Deutsche Guggenheim does not signal an end to the Guggenheim’s international network of museums. It is awaiting the green light from the City Board and the City Council of Helsinki to embark on a new Guggenheim Museum in Finland; an announcement is expected in the next few weeks.
“Private schools in Haryana oppose concessional norms for poor.” By Deepender Deswal. Times of India. February 6, 2012. Students of private schools in Rohtak would be at the receiving end of a face off between the school owners and Haryana government over concessional education to children from weaker sections. Over 400 private schools in the home district of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda will remain closed on Monday, following a call given by the private school welfare association to protest against the government’s enforcement of provision for free education to 25% children from poor sections enrolled in these schools. They are demanding that the government incur the expenses of these children instead of putting an extra burden on them. The government has directed the schools to furnish details of the beneficiary children on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court. Lawyer activist Satbir Hooda had demanded the implementation of the provision under Section 134A of the Haryana School Education Rules in 2009 to reserve 25% seats for meritorious students from economically weaker sections and charge fee from them at the same rates as charged in government schools. The private schools, however, refused to provide any concession, after which Hooda approached the high court for compliance of norms. Meanwhile, opposing the government’s move, president of the private schools welfare association, Kulbhushan Sharma, said, “In 2007, government came up with these provisions which mentioned that the deficit could be recovered from the remaining 75% students. But in 2009, government deleted the provision of recovery from 75% students, which burdened the school authorities. Now, if we enhance fee of 75% students, it would be exorbitant and we have to face the opposition of parents”. Maintaining that the Monday’s closure would only be symbolic, he said they could resort to statewide strike if the government does not listen to them. This issue could be tackled under the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE), in which the government is bound to fund the education of poor students, he said.
“Community Radio Saves Lives and Livelihoods.” By Manipadma Jena.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 10, 2012. Fisher Wanka Masani, 25, has been inseparable from his two- dollar transistor ever since a community radio (CR) station started up in this coastal town. The square black box blares popular songs while Masani waits for his brothers to land the daily catch. Radio Namaskar (the traditional Indian greeting), on the air since February 2010, offers much more than entertainment to the 2,000 active fishers from a 10,000-strong settlement of mud hut dwellers along Odisha state’s Chandrabhaga coastline on the Bay of Bengal. Cyclonic storms often threaten the fragile vessels of the fishers, and their lives. Television weather forecasts are unreliable because power supply in these parts is erratic. The popularity of the CR can be gauged from its most popular programme ‘Janata Darbar’ (People’s Court) and ‘Sir, Tike Sunibe?’ (Sir, Can you Kindly Lend Your Ear?) on which communities air their problems and grievances through focused 30-minute discussions, seeking redress from government agencies or elected leaders. “Ninety percent of our success stories are women-led,” says Naseem Ahmed Shah Ansari, 36, founder and chairperson of Radio Namaskar. All the 72 listener groups are led by women, he says, adding: “We want women to be the change makers in our predominantly rural setting.” Because of limited funds, the CR runs its programme entirely through 25 volunteers, ranging from Narayan Das, 62, a retired school teacher, to 18-year-old Sharup Saha, a student. “Neither the federal government nor funding organisations have any specific policy in place yet for funding CRs in India,” laments Ansari. The initial funds too were hard to come by: of the 22,000 dollars invested half came from Radio Namaskar’s parent organisation, Young India, while the rest was loaned interest-free by other non- government organisations. “Revenue from government advertisements is eyewash. We get a pittance and payments are invariably delayed,” says Ansari who is now looking at private advertisements, allowed for 5 minutes per hour of broadcast, as additional revenue.
“UNICEF Funding Falls Short Leaving Millions of Children at Risk.” By Bari Bates. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 6, 2012. – If the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had 1.28 billion dollars it could help 97 million people around the world. It could relieve five million drought-affected children in Ethiopia, give 360,000 children in Kenya access to quality education and treat 16,000 children for acute malnutrition in Madagascar. It could provide 2.2 million Somalis with safe drinking water and give a million children in the Republic of South Sudan basic health care. And those figures are for Eastern and Southern Africa alone, just two regions of the world that UNICEF aims to reach. Sadly, the U.N. agency secured less than 50 percent of its funding in 2011, suggesting that it will meet only half its expected goals this year. Each January UNICEF releases its Humanitarian Action for Children report, which identifies children around the world in the most acute need of aid as a result of humanitarian emergencies – be they “natural disasters, human conflicts or chronic crises.” The report is rife with pictures of children clinging perilously to survival; high-resolution images depict the protruding ribcages of malnourished boys and girls and the harsh realities of whole populations that are slowly starving to death. Everything about the report is a desperate call for help. But help comes at a price, which, in this case, is a high one.
“Benefit cuts are fuelling abuse of disabled people, say charities; Rising public resentment blamed on government.” By Peter Walker. Guardian. February 5, 2012. The government’s focus on alleged fraud and overclaiming to justify cuts in disability benefits has caused an increase in resentment and abuse directed at disabled people, as they find themselves being labelled as scroungers, six of the country’s biggest disability groups have warned. Some of the charities say they are now regularly contacted by people who have been taunted on the street about supposedly faking their disability and are concerned the climate of suspicion could spill over into violence or other hate crimes. While the charities speaking out – Scope, Mencap, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the National Autistic Society, Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), and Disability Alliance – say inflammatory media coverage has played a role in this, they primarily blame ministers and civil servants for repeatedly highlighting the supposed mass abuse of the disability benefits system, much of which is unfounded. At the same time, they say, the focus on “fairness for taxpayers” has fostered the notion that disabled people are a separate group who don’t contribute. Scope’s regular polling of people with disabilities shows that in September two-thirds said they had experienced recent hostility or taunts, up from 41% four months before. In the last poll almost half said attitudes towards them had deteriorated in the past year. Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “The Department for Work and Pensions is certainly guilty of helping to drive this media narrative around benefits, portraying those who receive benefits as workshy scroungers or abusing a system that’s really easy to cheat.” He added that ministers such as the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, were being “deeply irresponsible” in conflating Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which helps disabled people hold down jobs, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a payment for those unable to work. This “scrounger rhetoric” was already having an impact on people’s lives, Madders said, citing a woman who rang the charity to say a neighbour who formerly gave lifts to her autistic child had stopped doing so following press articles about disabled people receiving free cars under a government scheme. Some disabled people say the climate is so hostile they avoid going out, or avoid using facilities such as designated parking bays if they “don’t look disabled”.
“‘Scroungers’ rhetoric over benefits fuels abuse say charities.” Independent. February 6, 2012.
“Transport charities call for £100m fund to put cycling on safer track; Investment would encourage more people to switch from their cars to bicycles.” By Philip Pank. Times of London. February 6, 2012. Each year £100 million should be set aside to finance cycle infrastructure across Britain, leading transport charities propose today. The radical blueprint to kick-start construction of world-class cycle facilities calls for 2 per cent of the Highways Agency annual budget to be put into a national fund to which local authorities could bid for finance. The proposal is one of eight ideas put forward in The Times cycle safety manifesto. Investment on such a scale would encourage more people to switch from their cars to bicycles, its backers claim. The initiative from the Campaign for Better Transport, supported by Sustrans and national cycling groups, comes amid deep cuts to local authority budgets and the closure of a £60 million scheme to promote cycling. Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “You have a fund there [the Highways Agency budget] dedicated to road infrastructure. I don’t see why 2 per cent couldn’t go to cycling infrastructure.” Eleanor Besley, of Sustrans, said: “I think that is a fantastic idea. I can’t think of any problems with it.” The Highways Agency receives £4.9 billion to maintain the road network. Most roads are managed by local authorities, whose maintenance budgets have been cut by 20 per cent, or £164 million, this Parliament. Last year, funding for infrastructure in 12 Cycling City and Towns members was also stopped. Withdrawal of the £43 million came before final analysis could be made on whether the scheme was encouraging more cycling.
“Live Q&A: Students and social enterprise. Thursday 16 February from 1pm to 3pm.” Guardian. February 9, 2012. Join our expert panel to discussstudents and social enterprise. How could social enterprise be promoted among university students? As Dr Nissa Ramsay of UNLTD says, social entrepreneurship in higher education is more than just a fad – it could be instrumental to creating public value and enhancing the student experience. As Katerina Elias-Trostmann of NACUE wrote for us, there’s a real challenge in how to channel students’ ideas into viable business models says Katerina Elias-Trostmann. This live Q&A will consider: – how to teach social enterprise in higher education; – how to encourage students to pursue social enterprise in their own time; – making the leap from student social enterprise to real-life social enterprsie – how is it happening, how can it be supported and what needs to happen. Get in touch if you’d like to be a panellist – we’re interested in hearing from current students, past students who’ve carried social enterprise into their working lives, tutors and teachers, support organisations and investors. Email Gines Haro Pastor for more details. If you’d like to leave a question, please do so in the comments section below, or come back to ask it live – and follow the debate – on Thursday 16 February from 1pm to 3pm. Panel of experts: Edwin Broni-Mensah – Founder, GiveMeTap; Andre Hackett – Co-Founder, We Make a Change Ltd; Taeed Olinga – Professor in Social Enterprise, University of Northampton; Sara Fernandez – Chief Operating Officer, Student Hubs; Sharon Clancy- Head of Community Partnerships, University of Nottingham; Hushpreet Dhaliwal – CEO, NACUE.
‘Christianity on the rack as judge bans public prayer.” By Ruth Gledhill and Simon de Bruxelles. Times of London. Fenruary 10, 2012. The right of Christian worship in schools and Parliament faces a fresh assault after a High Court judge banned prayers at council meetings. In a landmark ruling yesterday on a case brought by the National Secular Society and an atheist councillor, formal acts of prayer in the chambers of town and city halls were outlawed. Senior members of the Church of England acted with barely disguised fury at the decision, branding the verdict a “silencing” of the Christian voice in Britain. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, told The Times that the High Court ruling represented the “marginalisation of Christianity”. The National Secular Society, which began the case in July 2010, denied that the ruling was an attack on religion — but acknowledged that it was contemplating a move to stop formal prayers at both Houses of Parliament. Keith Porteous Wood, a spokesman for the society, said: “England and Wales are the only countries in the world to have [prayers at Parliament], presumably because the UK is the only country in the world to give clerics, 26 bishops, the right to sit in its legislature. Strange how Britain still is alone in thinking it is appropriate to enforce this by law. We will not give up on this.”