Archive for April, 2012

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Sugar Daddies: The old, white, rich men who are buying this election.” By Frank Rich. New York Magazine. April 22, 2012. If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead. This isn’t quite what was supposed to happen. When the Supreme Court handed down its five-to-four Citizens United decision in 2010, pre-vetting Mitt Romney’s credo that “corporations are people,” apocalyptic Democrats, including Obama, predicted that the election would become a wholly owned subsidiary of the likes of Chevron and General Electric. But publicly traded, risk-averse corporations still care more about profits than partisanship. They tend to cover their bets by giving to both parties. And they are fearful of alienating customers and investors. Witness, most recently, the advertisers who fled Rush Limbaugh, or the far bigger brands (­McDonald’s and Wendy’s, Coke and Pepsi) that severed ties with the conservative lobbying mill responsible for pushing state “stand your ground” laws like the one used to justify the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. While corporations and unions remain serious players in the campaign of 2012, their dollars don’t match those of the sugar daddies, who can and do give as much as they want to the newfangled super-PACs. Sugar daddies—whom I’ll define here as private donors or their privately held companies writing checks totaling $1 million or more (sometimes much more) in this election cycle—are largely a Republican phenomenon, most of them one degree of separation from Karl Rove and his unofficial partners in erecting a moneyed shadow GOP, David and Charles Koch. At last look, there were 25 known sugar daddies on the right (or more, if you want to count separately the spouses and children who pitch in). During the primaries, the Republican sugar daddies fanned out to support various contenders, gladly bestowing tens of millions in mad money on the vainglorious crusades of Newt, the Herminator, and the two Ricks. But today these donors are starting to coalesce around Mitt. In retrospect, Romney, a one-percenter incarnate, is their natural candidate. And, for all intents and political purposes, they will own him if he makes it to the White House. The Center for Responsive Politics has calculated that just 10 percent of Romney’s donors for 2012 have been from among the hoi polloi (those contributing $200 or less)—compared with 52 percent for Santorum, 48 percent for Gingrich, and 45 percent for Obama. The only Americans fired up and ready to go for Mitt are those who can and will give to the max, all keenly mindful of the dividends certain to accrue to them in a Romney administration.

Planned Parenthood ‘targeted’ by anti-abortionists; Healthcare provider believes hoax clients are inquiring about sex-selection abortions in ploy to discredit group.” By Karen McVeigh. Guardian. April 23, 2012. A series of suspicious incidents at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country has led the group to believe they have been targeted in an undercover sting operation by anti-abortionists. Clinics for the healthcare provider have reported an escalation in so-called “hoax visits”, in which female clients ask leading questions about sex selection abortions, in interviews they believe are being secretly recorded in a ploy to discredit the organisation. The increase in the suspicious incidences at clinics has led to concern at the organisation that it is part of a national propaganda campaign against the group. It has led to a counter-PR campaign by Planned Parenthood. In a statement published in the reproductive health website RHReality Check, the organisation described “secret videotaping tactics with fictitious patient scenarios and selective editing” as a tactic that opponents of reproductive health and rights had employed against the group for years.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

ARTS & CULTURE

Lottery fever hits historic sites; Forty of them will compete in a citywide contest for a share of $3 million in grants with the winners to be picked by public ballot. Harlem’s Apollo Theater and Flushing Town Hall are among the contestants.” By Miriam Kreinin Souccar. Crain’s New York Business. April 26, 2012. Forty historic places in New York City will compete for a portion of $3 million in preservation grants in a public contest that was announced Thursday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The program, called Partners in Preservation, is funded and run by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The sites—which include Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, the Apollo Theater in Manhattan and Flushing Town hall in Queens—will be voted on by the public. Voters can cast an online ballot once a day through May 21. The four sites garnering the most votes will each receive grants of up to $250,000. The contest overseers will select the sites that will receive the rest of the funds. “Preserving the 40 sites, historic gems in all five boroughs, will help save the places that matter to people,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. “Historic buildings help define the personality of our city and draw residents, tourists, and entrepreneurs.” On May 5 and 6, the 40 sites will host open houses with either free or discounted admission for the public to visit and cast their votes. The contest, a major program for American Express’ philanthropic arm, has been run in six cities so far, including Chicago and New Orleans. This is New York’s first time. “Since its inception, the program has not only raised awareness about some of the nation’s most treasured historic sites, but also empowered local preservationists across the country to take action in their communities,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Symphonic Boom.” By Ada Louise Huxtable. Wall Street Journal. April 27, 2012. In a global construction explosion that echoes the last performing-arts center boom of the 1970s and ’80s, spectacular buildings for music are replacing the art museum as the most conspicuous cultural icon of the 21st century. Stylistically, they represent architecture’s leading edge. Musically, they signal radical changes in place, performance and audience attitudes. In the United States alone, 360 opera houses and concert halls were completed between 1994 and 2008. These are the buildings that have become the chosen symbols of national pride and progress for countries undergoing international shifts in status, money and power. “Site and Sound: The Architecture and Acoustics of New Opera Houses and Concert Halls,” by Victoria Newhouse, is an ambitious history and critique that covers everything from the amphitheater at Epidaurus (third century B.C.) to Zaha Hadid’s cutting-edge Cultural Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, which is under construction now. But the emphasis of this precisely written, meticulously researched study is on the most recent work. And there are some fascinating stories behind the more celebrated examples. It would seem that the doomsayers with their doleful statistics on aging audiences and diminishing attendance and the end of music as we know it may have it wrong. The picture is much larger than the serious problems of symphony orchestras in a time of severe economic recession; there are start-ups and superstars and young composers and performers who keep their day jobs until their work and ideas become the next big thing. There is a challenging plurality of styles and places to show them. The past is rediscovered while the present explores uncharted territory, and construction records are broken all over the world. Music and architecture will always be part of our lives.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

L.A. Unified moves to revoke charter at Valley high school; The district has faulted Birmingham Community Charter High School for allegedly mishandling student expulsions and services to disabled students. School officials say they’re aware of no major problems.” By Howard Blume. Los Angeles Times. April 25, 2012. Los Angeles school district officials are moving to retake control of Birmingham Community Charter High School, citing numerous alleged problems at the campus that broke away from the system three years ago. L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy has faulted the leaders of the Lake Balboa campus for allegedly mishandling student expulsions and services to disabled students and for failing to respond adequately to allegations of racial discrimination. School officials said they are looking into the allegations, but are aware of no major problems. Still, Birmingham’s board of directors voted last week not to renew the contract of founding Chief Executive Marsha Coates in what two board members characterized as an unrelated action. Deasy outlined the allegations in an April 13 letter to the school. The Board of Education is scheduled to vote May 1 on whether to take the first step to revoke Birmingham’s charter. Officials could not recall a similar action against a school that became an independent charter. Not mentioned in the letter, but also a cause for concern, is a recent police investigation into a possible theft of school funds. No arrests have been made. The Los Angeles Unified School District “has received numerous complaints and reports” about Birmingham, Deasy wrote. The campus, which left district control in 2009, was part of an exodus of large, traditional high schools that served a substantial number of middle-class families. Under the charter law, campuses can break away from L.A. Unified and form independent boards with control over budgets, curriculum and hiring.Critics, however, say such departures drained the nation’s second-largest school system of students, money, teaching jobs and, frequently, prestige.

FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS & COLLEGES

President Obama cracks down on for-profit recruiting of veterans.” No by-line. Metafilter.com. April 28, 2012. Today, President Obama signed an executive order which places stricter disclosure requirements on recruiters for for-profit schools looking to recruit veterans and soldiers. The move comes amid growing concern among state and federal legislators that for-profit educational institutions are doing more harm than good and are employing predatory recruiting practices especially on veterans who are exiting the military and looking to improve their education through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Obama’s order requires schools receiving the GI Bill or other Defense Department-funded veterans educational benefits or tuition assistance to disclose more information to students using military tuition assistance, including a breakdown of the percentage of service members and veterans who complete courses or degrees, according to White House officials. Might this be the beginning of a wider government crackdown on for-profit higher education?

PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING

Head Start Faces a New Test; In a First, the Preschool Centers Will Vie for Funds; Weeding Out Low Performers.” By Stephanie Banchero. Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2012. Some local Head Start programs for the first time will have to compete for a share of $7.6 billion in federal funding under a plan aimed at weeding out low-performing preschool centers. In its initial move, the Obama administration recently told 132 Head Start programs across the country that they have been identified as deficient, including the nation’s largest programs in Los Angeles County and New York City. The Obama administration has targeted 132 Head Start programs, including the one above in Trotwood, Ohio, that it says are underperforming. The targeted programs, which serve low-income three- and four-year-olds, won’t lose current funding. But instead of having their grants renewed automatically, as has been the practice, the programs now have to prove they are effective in preparing children for kindergarten before they will be given future funding. The move is part of the administration’s broader goal to infuse competition and accountability into public education from preschool through college. Head Start, created in 1964, provides federal funds to public school districts, city agencies and community organizations to operate roughly 1,600 programs serving about a million children. Long championed by Democrats, Head Start has come under growing attack by Republican lawmakers and other critics who say it is costly and ineffective, and that local providers have a virtual monopoly on the money no matter how poorly they perform.

HIGHER EDUCATION

NYU Expands Space in Downtown Brooklyn.” By Laura Kusisto. Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2012. Cornell University may have emerged the winner to build a technology campus on Roosevelt Island, but now its rival New York University is doubling down on Downtown Brooklyn’s emerging technology scene instead. NYU and the city announced Monday that they have struck a deal to create a applied-sciences institute, called the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress, at 370 Jay St., the mostly vacant former headquarters of the city transit authority. Officials and developers say the new campus will help revitalize Brooklyn’s commercial core, which remains lackluster even while the borough bustles on Saturday mornings with singles and stroller-pushing parents. NYU’s new institute will focus on researching and creating technology to help cities, including dealing with infrastructure, energy efficiency and traffic. The institute will eventually have about 530 graduate students and 50 full-time faculty members and is also expected to create 200 spinoff companies primarily started by graduating students, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference at NYU’s Polytechnic Institute in Downtown Brooklyn Monday.”Over the next five years 370 Jay St. will be transformed into a cutting-edge center for research and science that will give a boost to our city’s economy over the next decades,” the mayor said. The city has lauded the creation of a technology triangle stretching from Downtown Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Dumbo, where companies such as Etsy and Huge Inc. have moved in. “This new partnership is going to give the tech triangle a critical mass,” Mr. Bloomberg said. This is the second applied-sciences campus to grow out of a competition announced by the city in July.
Related story:
N.Y.U. to Create Research Institute in Brooklyn.New York Times. April 23, 2012.

Cooper Union Will Charge Tuition for Graduate Students.” By Richard Perez-Pena. New York Times. April 24, 2012. After months of agonized debate about its 110-year-old tradition of free education, Cooper Union will begin charging graduate students next year while maintaining, at least for now, its no-tuition policy for undergraduates, the college’s president said Tuesday. Cooper Union, in the East Village, will also expand its graduate and other programs to generate more income as it searches for a way out of a deepening financial hole. Jamshed Bharucha, who became president last July, said in October that the institution had no choice but to consider making students pay, prompting a storm of protest from some students, alumni and faculty, who saw the idea as a violation of Cooper Union’s core principles. The plan announced on Tuesday stopped far short of broad-based tuition, which might have been the simplest and surest route to financial stability. It also fell short of meeting the fiscal target that Cooper Union set last fall. In an interview, Dr. Bharucha made it clear that the college may yet have to be more aggressive about raising revenue. “This hybrid model is exciting because it gives us a chance to do new things and not just hunker down,” Dr. Bharucha said. But, he added, “There are risks for this strategy, and there are those who worry if it will work.” Undergraduate students who begin college in September 2013 will not pay tuition during their four years at Cooper Union, Dr. Bharucha said, but so far, the institution has made no commitments for those who follow them. At least some students who begin graduate school that year will pay tuition, but how much remains to be decided. Cooper Union will also start new programs as soon as 2013, like a master’s degree program combining the school’s strengths in technology and design, or online programs, to increase both enrollment and revenue. Dr. Bharucha acknowledged that the plan called for “a very accelerated time scale,” adding that the college was already in discussions with the State Board of Regents, which must authorize any new programs. Friends of Cooper Union, a group opposed to charging tuition, will hold a long-planned forum on Thursday to explore alternatives, and some of its leaders said they were taken aback that the college would proceed with its plan before hearing them out.

Donor of the Day: Gift Establishes Business School.Wall Street Journal. April 25, 2012 [For story, go to Philanthropy].

Academics Launch New Efforts to Retain Community-College Students.” By David Wessel. Wall Street Journal. April 25, 2012. Enrollment in community colleges exploded during the recession, as tens of thousands of Americans sought refuge from a hostile job market by going to school. But history suggests that most of those students probably won’t graduate. Despite a slight drop in enrollment in the current academic year, there were 21.8% more students signed up for courses at the nation’s 1,200 community colleges in the fall of 2011 than there were in the fall of 2007, the American Association of Community Colleges estimates. But U.S. Department of Education data from the 2000s show that a whopping 65% of those who start community colleges haven’t earned a degree or other credential after six years. Community colleges across the country, backed by several big foundations, have been experimenting with ways to keep students long enough to finish a program. Anne Arundel Community College in Annapolis, Md.—where 70% of the graduates of the county’s high schools enroll—set out in 2009 to double the number of degrees and certificates it awarded by 2020 without increasing enrollment.

Drama School nets largest-ever donation.” By Akbar Ahmed. Yale Daily News. April 26, 2012. At tonight’s premiere of “The Realistic Joneses” at the Yale Repertory Theatre, the Yale School of Drama will announce that it has received its largest donation ever, an $18 million gift from the Minneapolis-based Robina Foundation. The gift will go toward supporting the Yale Center for New Theatre, which was established in 2008 with a $2.85 million grant from the foundation and was originally scheduled to be funded only until June 2012, said School of Drama Dean James Bundy. The Center for New Theatre, which has funded and staged new works by over 30 commissioned artists at the Yale Repertory Theatre since its inception, aims to make an enduring commitment to advancing the frontiers of the American theater, Bundy added. “There have been large grants before for artistic programming in the history of the American theater, but, to my knowledge, there has never been a grant this large or [one so] focused on endowing a program’s capacity into perpetuity,” Bundy said. Prior to this gift, the largest donation ever made to the School of Drama was a sum of $3.2 million donated by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation in 2007, Bundy said, adding that the Greene Foundation grant was earmarked for scholarship endowment.

Tax-exempt school gives president a lavish life; Critic calls board a ‘puppet group’.” By Brian Jordan, Kristina Finn and Walter V. Robinson. Boston Globe. April 26, 2012. It is a tiny school, with an enrollment the size of a modest elementary school. There is no campus, just a small office building. Its 400 part-time students are invisible here, attending classes at off-site facilities across the country. Yet the National Graduate School of Quality Management awarded its president, Robert J. Gee, $732,891 in compensation two years ago. By comparison, the president of Tufts University, with 10,800 employees and 5,500 students, had nearly identical compensation the same year, $738,596. Gee has champagne tastes. In 2009, he persuaded the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency to authorize $2.64 million in low-interest bonds. That made possible his school’s purchase of a $3.25 million waterfront compound on Oyster Pond with spectacular views of Martha’s Vineyard, especially from the six-bedroom house earmarked to be Gee’s presidential residence. Five months later, the school, which focuses on a particular field of business management, purchased new automobiles to fit the estate setting: a silver Mercedes-Benz S550 sedan for Gee and a silver Mercedes-Benz station wagon for his wife, Aileen Waters Gee. The cost: $130,638, or about 2 percent of the school’s revenues that year. There was no sales tax, because the school is tax-exempt. For years, the school’s revenues have financed a lavish lifestyle for Gee and for his wife, who has been paid at least $100,000 a year since 2003. And they have vacationed together at school expense: The school owns a deluxe winter getaway in the US Virgin Islands for their use, part of a 17-year employment contract that expires in 2023, when Gee will be 79. Gee, after ignoring the Globe’s calls and e-mails for more than a month, issued a statement Wednesday asserting that his compensation and perks are warranted. He said that they are comparable with those given to leaders of similar institutions, but did not identify any.

BU remains frank about recent bad news.” By Mary Carmichael. Boston Globe. April 27, 2012. President Robert Brown said the facts come first. For Boston University, it has been an awful four months: The college has seen an undergraduate badly injured in a fire, the arrest of two hockey players on sexual assault charges, two episodes of what appeared to be extreme hazing, and a student practical joke gone so badly awry it drew international media attention. Last week, in by far the most serious and troubling event, a graduate student was slain off campus. But even as BU courts the 19,589 high school seniors it has admitted for next year – who must decide whether to attend by Tuesday – the university is not downplaying the bad news. In fact, president Robert Brown is making sure parents know about recent events. BU’s website has prominently featured straightforward stories about every negative incident on campus this semester. It is an approach that differs strikingly from crisis management tactics at many other universities.

The Imperiled Promise of College.” By Frank Bruni. New York Times. April 28, 2012. For a long time and for a lot of us, “college” was more or less a synonym for success. We had only to go. We had only to graduate. And if we did, according to parents and high-school guidance counselors and everything we heard and everything we read, we could pretty much count on a career, just about depend on a decent income and more or less expect security. A diploma wasn’t a piece of paper. It was an amulet. And it was broadly accessible, or at least it was spoken of that way. With the right mix of intelligence, moxie and various kinds of aid, a motivated person could supposedly get there. College was seen as a glittering centerpiece of the American dream, a reliable engine of social mobility. I’m not sure things were ever that simple, but they’re definitely more complicated now. And that was an unacknowledged backdrop for the pitched debate last week about federal student loan rates and whether they would be kept at 3.4 percent or allowed to return to 6.8 percent. That was one reason, among many, that it stirred up so much anxiety and got so much attention. Because of levitating costs, college these days is a luxury item. What’s more, it’s a luxury item with newly uncertain returns.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

FUNDRAISING

Food Charity Packs a New Funding Drive.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2012. As the recession takes a continued toll on food pantries and other emergency providers, one of the city’s top hunger charities is embarking on an ambitious fundraising drive to broaden its reach and double the amount of food it distributes. City Harvest plans to announce the five-year, $30 million campaign on Tuesday. Already, the organization has quietly raised $9 million toward the effort. The 30-year-old charity collects excess food from restaurants, groceries, cafeterias and farms and distributes it to hundreds of groups throughout the city. The new campaign would allow it to increase the amount of food it handles every year to 60 million pounds from 28 million last year. A popular charity in New York, City Harvest has support from some glamorous star chefs, including Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin and Geoffrey Zakarian of the Lamb’s Club. Last year’s “Evening of Practical Magic” gala raised $1.5 million. Its May luncheon raises some $240,000. The new fundraising effort, however, plans to target the organization’s existing 70,000 donors by asking them to increase their average contribution. Only 2% of the group’s funding comes from government sources. It has an annual budget of $19 million. “We will never be in a position of having to say no to a client or agency because we’ve lost our funding,” said City Harvest Executive Director Jilly Stephens.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

HUMAN SERVICES

Did Conservative Sting Operatives Target Planned Parenthood—Again?” By Jessica Valenti. The Nation. April 24, 2012. After a series of odd visits by patients asking questions about sex-selective abortions, Planned Parenthood has determined that their centers are likely the target of another undercover video “sting” operation. In a post on RH Reality Check, Planned Parenthood’s Vice President of Education Leslie Kantor and Senior Medical Adviser Dr. Carolyn Westhoff wrote that they anticipate the group—presumably Live Action, which has targeted Planned Parenthood in the past—“likely in coordination with a broad range of anti-choice leaders, will soon launch a propaganda campaign with the goal of discrediting Planned Parenthood.” According to the Huffington Post, Planned Parenthood clinics in at least eleven states over the last few weeks have been the target of “patients” coming in asking a series of questions about finding out the gender of their fetus, and indicating that they want to terminate the pregnancy if it’s a girl.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

ARGENTINA

First School for Transvestites Opens in Buenos Aires.” By Marcela Valente. Interpress Service (IPSnews.net). April 27, 2012. With 35 students, the first secondary school specifically for transvestites and other members of sexual minorities who face discrimination in mainstream schools opened in March in the Argentine capital. The “Mocha Celis” Popular Baccalaureate is the name of the tuition-free school supported by nonprofit organisations, which caters especially – but not exclusively – to transvestites, transsexuals and transgender persons over the age of 16. The school is named after an illiterate transvestite who worked as a prostitute and was an activist with the Association of Argentine Transvestites. A week after Celis went missing, her body was found, showing signs that she had been beaten and shot to death. Activists suspect that Celis was killed by a federal police officer who had previously threatened her. In an interview with IPS, Francisco Quiñones, the head of the new school, explained that the idea was “to create an inclusive school, free of discrimination, that takes into account and values the different trans identities, where they can manage to finish secondary school. “Public schools, which are governed by rules that cater to heterosexuals, drive these people away,” and they end up dropping out of school at much higher rates than the rest of the population due to discrimination, which can even go as far as physical violence, he said.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

2 Abuse Victims Testify at Church Official’s Trial.” By Jon Hurdle. New York Times. April 25, 2012. Two men testified Wednesday of abuse they suffered as youths at the hands of a now defrocked Philadelphia priest. The two victims of Edward Avery, a former priest who has pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges, appeared during the landmark trial of Msgr. William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who is charged with child endangerment. Monsignor Lynn is suspected of allowing priests accused of abuse to remain in positions where they could continue to abuse children. One victim, now 23, told the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas how Mr. Avery abused him in the sacristy of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Northeast Philadelphia in 1998, when he was 10 years old. The man said that he had already been abused by the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, another priest who is charged with abuse, and that Mr. Avery said he intended to do the same thing with him. “He said he heard about my sessions with Father Engelhardt and that ours were going to begin soon,” said the man, who was an altar boy. Jurors were shown a school photograph of the boy at age 10, and of the inside of the church, and the sacristy where the abuse occurred. On the first of two occasions when Mr. Avery abused him, the priest asked the boy to stay behind after Mass, and took him to a storage room adjoining the sacristy, the court heard. The witness said the priest turned on music and forced the boy to do a striptease until he was naked. He then sat the boy on his lap, and forced him to perform oral sex and masturbation, and told him that he was doing God’s will. “ ‘This is what God wants,’ ” the witness said Mr. Avery told him.

In L.A. clergy abuse cases, the wheels of justice move slowly; A victim who went along with the landmark $660-million settlement blames the delay in the release of confidential files not only on the church, but also on his own lawyers. ‘They took the money and ran,’ he says.” By Gale Holland. Los Angeles Times. April 28, 2012. Manuel Vega was in the courtroom when the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to pay clergy abuse victims a landmark $660-million settlement. The bailiff had to whisk some of the victims out to make room for all the high-fiving lawyers filing in for their payday, he says. Vega, who says he was molested as a boy by a priest in Oxnard, went along with the settlement only because his attorneys assured him the church would turn over confidential personnel files that would reveal the truth about priest abusers, and those who shielded them, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony. Four years and nine months later, Mahony is retired, but not a single page from the files has seen the light of day. Complaints about the delay have become a litany trotted out every year, along with accusations the church is stonewalling to protect its own, and Mahony’s, legacy. What’s different about Vega’s complaint is that he blames not only the church but his own lawyers. “They took the money and ran,” he says. The Los Angeles settlement required attorneys on both sides to “immediately work cooperatively” so the files could be opened in “a reasonably short period of time.” Raymond Boucher, who represented Vega and other victims, and J. Michael Hennigan, who represents the archdiocese, blame the slow grinding of the legal system for the long delay. “All we’re doing is what is required by law,” Hennigan said. “Nobody is more frustrated than I,” Boucher said. The Diocese of Orange, however, released its confidential priest files five months after reaching a financial settlement with abuse victims. The revelations included church officials dumping one serial molester in Tijuana, welcoming a convicted child abuser from another state into their diocese and offering a repeat abuser up to $19,000 to leave the priesthood quietly. But then, the pact that victims’ lawyers struck with the L.A. church was never what it was cracked up to be.

DEVELOPMENT

Civil Society Determined to Have an Impact on Río+20.” By Fabíola Ortiz. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). Innovating and stepping up the pressure on governments are the bywords for civil society participation in the run-up to Rio+20, a conference with the ambitious goal of changing the way humankind relates with the planet. Rio+20 is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which will take place Jun. 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the same city that hosted the historic Earth Summit in 1992. The key themes addressed at the conference will be a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. “There is a great deal of concern over what is going to happen. There is skepticism,” Marcelo Cardoso, executive coordinator of the non- governmental Vitae Civilis Institute, told Tierramérica. “For us, it will be an opportunity for international civil society to work together towards developing agendas of convergence” with the authorities and the private sector to achieve consensus. Agenda 21, the plan of action adopted at the Earth Summit, stated the need for broad public participation in decision-making, with a particular emphasis on nine major groups: indigenous peoples, farmers, workers and their trade unions, local authorities, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, women, children and youth, and non-governmental organisations. These nine groups are striving to influence the formal discussions through the organisation of campaigns and parallel activities within the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future. “Civil society organisations must take on a global role,” said Cardoso. While civil society can have a key impact on decision-making processes, it is also a complex and “highly fragmented” sector, he noted.

Farm Animals Join Rio+20 Agenda.” By Johanna Treblin. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). April 28, 2012. Human development and biodiversity will not be the only focus of the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June, for which representatives of hundreds of states and non- governmental organisations (NGOs) will gather to discuss sustainable development. The delegates will also deal with the wellbeing of farm animals and sustainable farming, thanks to the efforts of the London-based NGO World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the governments of the G-77 countries, Switzerland and New Zealand. Together, they have helped to draft a part of the Rio+20 outcome text, to be negotiated in June, to “call upon all States to prioritise sustainable intensification of food production through increased investment in local food production”, especially in regard to women, smallholders, youth and indigenous farmers. The draft text further demands an increase in “the use of appropriate technologies for sustainable agriculture”. The WSPA, which sees itself not only as an animal advocacy group but also as one that supports sustainable agriculture, defines sustainable livestock production as part of a food and agriculture system that is ecologically sound, equitable for farmers and rural communities and other sectors of society, and humane in its use and treatment of livestock.

EGYPT

Egypt Rejects Registration Bids From 8 U.S. Nonprofit Groups.” By David D.Kirkpatrick. New York Times. April 23, 2012. An Egyptian ministry has rejected the applications for registration of eight American nonprofit groups, state media reported, in the government’s first action on the status of foreign-backed nonprofit groups since its criminal prosecution of three American-backed organizations set off a crisis in relations with Washington this year. The state media reported that the Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry had rejected the applications of the groups on the grounds that their activities violated Egyptian sovereignty. Most notable among them was the Carter Center, which has sent monitors to observe the Egyptian presidential election. Its founder, former President Jimmy Carter, is something close to a national hero in Egypt for his role brokering the 1979 Camp David peace accords. Sanne van der Bergh, director of the center’s operations in Egypt, said that the group was awaiting an official response to its application and that it still hoped to receive an invitation from the presidential election commission to monitor the elections starting next month. Other groups denied registration included Seeds of Peace, which brings young Egyptians, Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians together at a camp in Maine; a group for Coptic Christian orphans; and a Mormon missionary group. There was no indication of any immediate legal action against the groups or their employees in Egypt. In February, the Egyptian authorities brought criminal charges against the employees of three American-backed groups accused of illegally receiving foreign money and operating without registration. The groups — the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House — were federally financed and chartered to promote democracy. Among those charged was Sam LaHood, an official of the Republican Institute and the son of the American transportation secretary, Ray LaHood. Last month, the United States flew Mr. LaHood and six other Americans out of Egypt in a deal to remove them from prosecution. But the trial is continuing, and about a dozen of the groups’ Egyptian employees still face criminal charges and possible jail time.

ITALY

Maxxi museum faces closure; Italian art centre may be put under special administration as government acts on £650,000 hole in institution’s accounts.” By John Hooper. Guardian. April 24, 2012. The Italian government has 20 days in which to decide the fate of the country’s national contemporary art museum, the Maxxi, which opened in Rome just two years ago and was designed by the Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Lorenzo Ornaghi, the culture and heritage minister in Mario Monti’s non-party government, has opened proceedings that could lead to the Maxxi being put under special administration. Officials said he decided to act following the discovery of a €800,000 (£654,000) hole in the 2011 accounts and a prediction that losses could reach €11m in the next three years. The Maxxi crisis is the latest symptom of the funding crisis which is sweeping southern Europe and wreaking havoc on the arts. The administrators of the museum said last year’s losses were in part due to a 43% cut in government funding and had, in any case, been covered by profits carried over from the previous year. They expressed “surprise and concern” at the minister’s decision which “damaged the international credibility” of the museum.

TURKEY

Turkey Feels Sway of Reclusive Cleric in the U.S.” By Dan Bilefsky and Sebnem Arsu. New York Times. April 24, 2012. When Ahmet Sik was jailed last year on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, he had little doubt that a secretive movement linked to a reclusive imam living in the United States was behind his arrest. “If you touch them you get burned,” a gaunt and defiant Mr. Sik said in an interview in March at his apartment here, just days after being released from more than a year in jail. “Whether you are a journalist, an intellectual or a human rights activist, if you dare to criticize them you are accused of being a drug dealer or a terrorist.” Mr. Sik’s transgression, he said, was to write a book, “The Army of the Imam.” It chronicles how the followers of the imam, Fethullah Gulen, have proliferated within the police and the judiciary, working behind the scenes to become one of Turkey’s most powerful political forces — and, he contends, one of its most ruthless, smearing opponents and silencing dissenters. The case quickly became among the most prominent of dozens of prosecutions that critics say are being driven by the followers of Mr. Gulen, 70, a charismatic preacher who leads one of the most influential Islamic movements in the world, with millions of followers and schools in 140 countries. He has long advocated tolerance, peace and interfaith dialogue, drawing on the traditions of Sufism, a mystical strain of Islam generally viewed as being moderate. But the movement’s stealthy expansion of power — as well as its tactics and lack of transparency — is now drawing accusations that Mr. Gulen’s supporters are using their influence in Turkey’s courts and police and intelligence services to engage in witch hunts against opponents with the aim of creating a more conservative Islamic Turkey. Critics say the agenda is threatening the government’s democratic credentials just as Turkey steps forward as a regional power.

UK

Fraudster’s extradition fuels hopes for lost charity cash; Michael Brown: faces an extradition hearing this week.” By Fiona Hamilton. Times of London. April 23 2012. The head of a charity conned by Michael Brown, a former donor to the Liberal Democrat Party, is hoping that the fraudster’s extradition to Britain will lead to it recovering its money. Michael Stoma said that his charity is owed up to £350,000 raised by Brown on its behalf for children in Ethiopia, but which it never received. Dr Stoma welcomed the prospect of the return of the Lib Dems’ biggest donor to serve a seven-year prison sentence for fraud and hoped that it would resurrect calls for the money to be reimbursed. He said: “We want to see it [the money] back. It would go where it was intended to go.” Brown, 45, landed in Madrid on Saturday after being deported from the Dominican Republic where he was arrested in January. It follows a four-year search across three continents after he fled Britain while on bail before a £40 million fraud trial in 2008. He will face an extradition hearing this week. He was convicted and sentenced in his absence of stealing £36 million from investors, including nearly £8 million from Martin Edwards, the former chairman of Manchester United. The prospect of Brown returning to the UK will increase pressure on the Liberal Democrats, who received a £2.4 million donation from him.

How to stop donors asking about your administration costs; Charities need to stop talking about their administration costs and focus on telling donors where their money goes.” Guardian. April 23, 2012. It’s probably the most frequently asked question in the entire charity world. And yet as any charity knows, it’s irrelevant. To see off the question about running costs, talk about something else. Be on the offensive with a strong strategy and good data about results. In my experience of working with donors of all types, the administration question arises from a vacuum. Donors know that charities’ stories are sales pitches, hardly an unbiased basis for good decisions. They can rarely see into the black box that allegedly transforms their donation into impact. So arises a suspicion that it doesn’t – a suspicion compounded by common tales of funds being frittered/embezzled/corrupted away. Hence there’s a vacuum where there should be confidence about effectiveness. This doesn’t matter in a commercial transaction. I don’t particularly care how a café spends the money I give it as long as I get a nice lunch. But since donors aren’t the ones consuming the charities’ work, they’ve no idea whether its product or service is any good. This separation between the person providing the money and the person consuming the product is at the heart of most problems in the charity sector. The admin question is usually a misplaced quest for some reassurance that something useful is happening.

Oxfam launches Humankind Index to measure wellbeing; The charity’s Scottish arm has used measures including health, transport, family life and employment to evaluate quality of life.” By Severin Carrel. Guardian. April 24, 2012. Anti-poverty campaigners at Oxfam have created a new technique for measuring quality of life and social justice in Britain which they claim has found major flaws in mainstream policies on jobs and economic growth. The charity said its new Humankind Index, launched on Tuesday, was a far more accurate measure of people’s wellbeing and happiness than focusing on GDP and employment rates, and had found deep-seated and significant problems which had been ignored by successive governments. It said the index – designed by Oxfam’s Scotland office using 18 measures ranging from health, transport, family life and experiences of work to access to parks – found most people put much greater weight on the quality of their lives and work than on material wealth and success. While quality of life for most people in Scotland had improved slightly, by 1.2%, between 2007-08 and 2009-10, this was chiefly due to improvements in their health and community spirit. The index, which is now being evaluated by UK government statisticians and Scottish government civil servants, estimated that in contrast, there had been a 43% fall in people’s financial security, a 26% fall in the number of people who felt they had secure and suitable jobs and a 24% decline in those who felt they had enough to live on. It had also detected a growing “lag” in the wellbeing and experiences of the most deprived communities compared to the average; Oxfam said that raised serious questions about the damage being done by the recession and the stress from flexible, temporary and part-time working demanded by government ministers and the modern jobs market.

Open data can benefit voluntary sector; Charities can improve interventions and the impact of their work through effective use of open data.” By Ed Anderton. Guardian. April 24, 2012. For many in the voluntary sector, the starting point for looking into open data is the desire to challenge social changes more effectively. The Nominet Trust team is spending a fair amount of time thinking, investigating and experimenting with open data. The trust’s aim is to seek and support new uses of digital technology for social good. We recently co-hosted a conference on charities and open data with the Big Lottery Fund and NCVO, which indicated a growing interest from the voluntary sector. The opening of public sector data over the past few years is one obvious stimulus for this, particularly since many charities are data suppliers due to their work delivering a public service contracts. For many in the voluntary and charitable sector, the starting point for these conversations is the desire to be more effective in addressing social challenges. Whether this is the remarkable intrinsic motivation of wanting to support the communities more effectively, or the extrinsic motivation of doing more with less, the starting point isn’t technology, but making the most of the resources we have. Data is one resource that is becoming available in abundance. But this isn’t new. In 1858, Florence Nightingale produced the ‘Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East’ which showed that most British soldiers in the Crimean war died of sickness, rather than wounds or other causes. This data demonstrated the importance of hygienic camps and hospitals; its clear presentation articulated the specific challenges that needed to be addressed. It provided evidence of effective practice and presented arguments for better ways of working. Using data to inform how we improve our work has a long tradition in our sector.

Private schools look east for pupils as British parents feel pinch; John Newton, the head of Taunton School, where about a quarter of pupils are from overseas, said there was a belief that some boarding schools were recruiting foreign students in a ‘desperate attempt to fill their beds.’” By Nicola Woolcock and Greg Hurst. Times of London. April 26 2012. An increasing number of Russian and Chinese pupils are helping to prop up private schools, according to an annual census by the Independent Schools Council. The number of children from abroad taught at private schools grew by 1,411 — almost 6 per cent — last year, while the number of British pupils fell by 706, or 0.15 per cent. Russian families were the fastest-growing market, with a doubling of the numbers of Russian pupils in the past five years. Many of the families of foreign pupils hire agents or consultants to secure a place at a leading school. The Times has been told that some wealthy Russian parents pay as much as £50,000 per child, although more typical commission charges would be equivalent to the first term’s fees at the school; about £10,000. Some independent schools hire agents to recruit international pupils, and pay commission of up to 20 per cent of their fee income per pupil. These agents, used even more widely by British universities, face tighter controls in an attempt to squeeze out rogue operators. Britain has joined Australia, Ireland and New Zealand to issue stringent rules of conduct that education agents will be expected to follow. These include acting ethically, declaring all fees, ensuring advertising material is accurate and shunning abuse of visa controls. The lucrative recruitment practice risks creating “ghettos” of children from the same country at boarding schools, some heads have warned. Martin Stephen, the former High Master of St Paul’s School, last week criticised schools that were increasingly reliant on the “fool’s gold” of fees from overseas students, adding that soaring fees were making independent schools the preserve of the very wealthy and threatening their very existence.

Foodbank handouts double as more families end up on the breadline; Trussell Trust says two centres a week are opening in UK to give food parcels to working families struggling to cope.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. April 26, 2012. Britain’s leading foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, says every single day it is handing out emergency food parcels to parents who are going without meals in order to feed their children, or even considering stealing food to put on the table, as the government’s austerity measures start to bite. The number of people to whom it had issued emergency food parcels had doubled in the last 12 months and was set to increase further as rising living costs, shrinking incomes and welfare cuts take their toll, the trust said, as it published its annual report, which is fast becoming a barometer of social deprivation. Two foodbanks a week opened up in the UK over the last 12 months to meet an explosion in demand from families living on the breadline, the trust said. The charity currently oversees 201 foodbanks run on a franchise basis across the UK, up from 100 in 2010-11. It fed 128,000 people last year, distributing 1,225 tonnes of food donated by the public, schools and businesses, and estimates that half a million individuals a year will be in receipt of a food parcel by 2016. “Foodbanks are seeing people from all walks of life turning to us for help when they hit crisis,” said Chris Mould, the executive chair of the Trussell Trust. “The current economic situation means that times are tough for many. Every day we meet parents who are skipping meals to feed their children or even considering stealing to stop their children going to bed hungry. “It is shocking that there is such a great need for foodbanks in 21st century Britain, but the need is growing.”

From Haiti to Athens: charity aids austerity victims.” By James Bone Perama. Times of London. April 27, 2012. The head doctor at the clinic by the docks has worked as a humanitarian volunteer in such poverty-wracked nations as Haiti and Uganda. Now she is working for the same charity, treating patients in her own backyard in Perama, on the outskirts of Athens. “Here there’s also a crisis, like in Haiti. Many times I feel I am in Haiti when I’m in Athens. There are too many critical cases,” Aspasia Michalakis said. “Now we have to concentrate in Greece. We have abandoned, more or less, the other world crises. We had the opportunity to go to Libya, but because of the [Greek] crisis we didn’t go.” The medical charity Médecins du Monde — Doctors of the World — known for its work in the Third World, now serves thousands of patients with mobile units and five clinics in Greece as the country’s public health service crumbles because of the EU-mandated austerity programme.

Judges must speak out, says founder of marriage charity.” By Frances Gibb. Times of London. April 28 2012. A senior judge has defended the right of judges to speak out on public concerns. Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court family judge who will launch a charity next week to tackle the “crisis of family breakdown”, said that if judges saw something wrong from their own experiences in the courts they had a duty to warn people about it. It was the same, he said, as doctors alerting the public to an epidemic that they had detected. “It would be irresponsible to remain quiet,” he said. Sir Paul, 62, has 40 years’ experience in the family courts, as a family barrister and, since 2000, as a judge. He is setting up the Marriage Foundation, a charity with no political or religious affiliations, to tackle “the appalling and costly impact of family breakdown”. He is concerned about the impact of marriage breakdown on children: an estimated 3.8 million children are currently caught up in the family justice system. The Marriage Foundation, which has attracted 300 supporters, seeks to raise £150,000 to fund research and be a “first port of call” on marriage. His comments will fuel the debate about judges voicing their views. Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, the Master of the Rolls, warned judges last month about the dangers of engaging in public debate, saying that “only in very exceptional circumstances” should a judge express his or her views out of court. In a separate speech, Lady Justice Hallett said that judges should not “descend into the political arena”. Sir Paul, who is married with three children and three grandchildren, said that all judges brought their life experiences to work. “Of course it would be unseemly to comment on the defence budget or NHS reforms. But if judges cannot comment on what they find in the work they do, who will?”

Britain’s rich soar to record wealth.” By Kathryn Cooper. Sunday Times. April 29, 2012. Britain’s wealthiest people are richer than they have ever been with a combined fortune of £414 billion, even though the rest of the country is mired in its worst recession since the 1930s. The Sunday Times Rich List 2012, published today, reveals that the 1,000 richest men and women in the country have increased their wealth by 4.7% on last year’s total of £395.8 billion, surpassing the previous high of £412.8 billion recorded before the 2008 financial crash. At a time when the economy has slipped back into a double-dip recession, the figures will raise concerns about the growing gap between the most affluent in society and the “squeezed middle”. There are 77 British-based billionaires in this year’s list, exceeding the previous peak of 75 in 2008. Last year there were 73 people on the list with a fortune of £1 billion or more, and in 2010 there were just 53. The growth in the wealth of the country’s elite has come in large part from British-born industrialists in traditional sectors of the economy, some of whom are more than £1 billion richer than they were last year.

http://features.thesundaytimes.co.uk/richlist/2012/live/

Cardinal accuses David Cameron of ‘immoral’ behaviour and favouring rich; Cardinal Keith O’Brien says PM should not protect only his ‘very rich colleagues’ but consider his moral obligation to the poor.” By Shiv Malik. Guardian. April 29, 2012. One of Britain’s most prominent religious figures, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has accused David Cameron of immoral behaviour and of favouring rich City financiers over those struggling on lower incomes. O’Brien, Scotland’s most senior Roman Catholic authority, said: “The poor have suffered tremendously from the financial disasters of recent years and nothing, really, has been done by the very rich people to help them. “I am saying to the prime minister, look, don’t just protect your very rich colleagues in the financial industry, consider the moral obligation to help the poor of our country.” O’Brien called for Cameron to introduce a Robin Hood or financial transaction tax on City dealings. “My message to David Cameron, as the head of our government, is to seriously think again about this Robin Hood tax, the tax to help the poor by taking a little bit from the rich,” he told the BBC. Last year Cameron and the chancellor, George Osborne, led Europe-wide efforts to stop France and Germany introducing just such a tax, arguing that it would be uniquely damaging to UK interests. In a BBC1 Scotland interview, O’Brien said it was immoral “just to ignore” those suffering as a result of the credit crunch. “When I say poor, I don’t mean [only] the abject poverty we see sometimes in our streets. I mean people who would have considered themselves reasonably well-off. “People who have saved for their pensions and now realise their pension funds are no more. People who are considering giving up their retirement homes that they have been saving for, poverty affecting young couples and so on and so on. “It is these people who have had to suffer because of the financial disasters of recent years, and it is immoral. It is not moral just to ignore them and to say ‘struggle along’, while the rich can go sailing along in their own sweet way.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

LAW & PUBLIC POLICY

Most independent ads for 2012 election are from groups that don’t disclose donors.” By Dan Eggen. Washington Post. April 25, 2012. Nearly all of the independent advertising being aired for the 2012 general-election campaign has come from interest groups that do not disclose their donors, suggesting that much of the political spending over the next six months will come from sources invisible to the public. Politically active nonprofit groups that do not reveal their funding sources have spent $28.5 million on advertising related to the November presidential matchup, or about 90 percent of the total through Sunday, a Washington Post analysis shows. Most of the ad spending has come in swing states from conservative groups that criticize President Obama’s policies, the data show. Secretive groups have spent tens of millions more targeting congressional races, again mainly in support of Republicans. The numbers signal a shift away from super PACs, which are required to disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission and which have overwhelmed spending in the Republican primary contest. Instead, the battle between Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney appears likely to be dominated by a shadow campaign run by big-spending nonprofits that do not have to identify their financial backers. Under tax and election laws, most nonprofits, including many that spend money to run ads during election season, are not required to publicly reveal their donors, unlike more purely political groups. The pattern underscores the growing influence of corporations and wealthy individuals in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that made it easier to spend unlimited money on elections. The numbers also suggest that many well-off donors are increasingly opting for the confidentiality of nonprofits rather than allowing the public scrutiny that comes from giving to super PACs or candidates.
Related stories:
On The Million-Dollar Trail Of A Mystery SuperPAC Donor.” Morning Edition/ National Public Radio. April 26, 2012.
FEC Disclosure Loophole Closes On Secret Donors As Court Won’t Stay Ruling.” Huffington Post. April 27, 2012.
Sugar Daddies: The old, white, rich men who are buying this election.” New York Magazine. April 22, 2012.

Special-interest money and politics: the American way; AT&T’s massive spending in Sacramento is just one example of the pervasive pattern. And politicians who deny that donations influence their decisions insult our intelligence.” By George Skelton. Los Angeles Times. April 26, 2012. Democrat or Republican. It’s just human nature. That’s why the non-donating aged, blind and disabled — the welfare moms and college kids — draw the short straw at budget time. And it’s why the generous public employee unions and corporate interests make out. Contributors usually cash in. AT&T most often gets its way, as reported in the Times article by Anthony York and Shane Goldmacher. They wrote that the telecommunications giant hands out, on average, more than $1 million in political contributions each year. Every current member of the Legislature — Democrat or Republican — has received at least $1,000. Chairmen of committees that handle legislation directly affecting the industry receive far more. “When AT&T gives to every single legislator — liberal and conservative — then you know there’s a problem,” says campaign finance expert Robert Stern, who helped write California’s political reform act in 1974. You know that AT&T is not handing out money based on a legislator’s ideology, but on his potential for pliability and casting a friendly vote in the Capitol.

Thousands of Ga. nonprofits due refunds from state.” By Shelia M. Poole. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. April 27, 2012. More than 60,000 Georgia nonprofits and out-of-state limited liability partnerships are due refunds totaling $1.8 million because of a programming error. The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office said organizations that filed an annual registration between Aug. 12, 2010, and April 13, 2012, may be eligible for a partial refund.The General Assembly approved House Bill 1055 in 2010 to raise the annual registration fee for corporations, partnerships, associations, domestic limited partnerships and limited liability companies from $30 to $50. An internal review, however, discovered that while putting the measure in place, the system used for setting the fees for corporations was inadvertently reprogrammed to charge nonprofits and out-of-state LLPs $50 as well. Nonprofits usually pay a $30 annual registration fee, and out-of-state LLPs pay $25. “It was just an error that we caught after the fact,” said Vincent Russo, general counsel for the agency. Those charged are being notified by email or first-class mail and can visit https://secure.sos.state.ga.us/refund for information. They may also email pecorprefund@sos.ga.gov or call 404-602-9120. The amount of the refund will vary based on how many annual filings were made and the type of organization

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

MEDIA

Federal Arts Endowment Sharply Cuts PBS Grants.” By Elizabeth Jensen. New York Times. April 25, 2012. The National Endowment for the Arts made sweeping cuts in its support of established PBS shows on Wednesday, and for the first time awarded significant grants to an array of gaming, mobile and Web-based projects. Among the PBS programs receiving significantly less financing under the 2012 Arts in Media grants were “Live From Lincoln Center,” which was awarded $100,000 last year and nothing this year. The Metropolitan Opera received $50,000 for its national “Great Performances at the Met” telecasts, $100,000 less than in 2011. WNET in New York received $50,000 to support other “Great Performances” productions and the same amount for “American Masters,” compared to $400,000 for each last year. Paula Kerger, PBS’s president and chief executive, called the reduced grants “disappointing.” “The N.E.A. and PBS have been longtime partners,” she said in a telephone interview. “We do what is the mission of the N.E.A. We bring arts to every home across the country.” She said that while she understands the endowment’s problem of balancing traditional and innovative projects, “for us this is a huge impact, and we have to scramble and try to fill the gap,” adding that she is particularly concerned about “American Masters,” “Great Performances” and “Live From Lincoln Center,” which the endowment helped to create in 1976. Neal Shapiro, the president and chief executive of WNET, said that if “Great Performances” and “American Masters” could not make up the funds elsewhere “then obviously we cannot help as many regional arts organizations and independent filmmakers share their work with the nation.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

PHILANTHROPY

Donor of the Day: Keeping City Rivers Safe.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2012. To David Kowitz, it was the Indian Point nuclear plant that moved him to action. The 48-year-old Mr. Kowitz, a managing partner and a founder of investment firm Indus Capital Partners, recalls that, as a kid, if you fell into the Hudson River near New York City the common thinking was that a trip to the hospital was inevitable. “It was kind of third world,” is how he remembers the way that people thought about the Hudson River back then. He grew up in Middletown, N.Y., and now has a home in Bedford. He likes to fish. Mr. Kowitz credits the work of Riverkeeper, the four-decades-old advocacy group that protects the Hudson River and the city’s supply of drinking water, with making the river safe again. Mr. Kowitz—who is quick to say that he is not a “massive environmentalist,” just environmentally aware—serves on the organization’s board and has funded various Riverkeeper programs, including a study to monitor the amount of sewage contamination in the river. (That study has shown that there is both “chronic and episodic” sewage pollution in the river.) For his latest gift of $200,000, given in honor of the organization’s annual Fisherman’s Ball to be held in New York on April 26, Mr. Kowitz has directed a portion of the donation toward Riverkeeper’s Indian Point campaign. His reasons for doing so are simple: He says that it’s “shocking” that one of the country’s oldest nuclear plants “with a pretty checkered safety history” is so close to New York.

Honesty in the Face of Alzheimer’s.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 24, 2012. Here’s how Melvin R. Goodes, the retired chief executive of Warner-Lambert, answers the question, “Mel, how are you?” “Not bad for a guy with Alzheimer’s,” he responds. That Mr. Goodes approaches this question honestly and with a sense of humor is just the point. “I’m very open about all this,” says Mr. Goodes, 77 years old. “A lot of people who have gone through this kind of thing may become terribly reticent to go out in public. I just adopted a different attitude.” You’ll find Mr. Goodes and his wife, Nancy, playing sports and at parties in their home community of Vero Beach, Fla. Mrs. Goodes, 58, says that her husband jokes with her that every day he meets new friends. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago and given some pills, says Mrs. Goodes. That wasn’t good enough and the couple sought out a doctor and organization that could help the couple navigate what Mrs. Goodes calls a “desperate” time. Their search led to Dr. Howard Fillit of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and to Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Cos., and co-chair of the ADDF with his brother, Ronald Lauder. The organization, founded in 1998, is focused on accelerating the development of drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. It is a mission that spoke deeply to Mr. Goodes, who is known in the pharmaceutical industry as the man behind the statin drug, Lipitor. (In addition, he also green-lighted one of the first drugs used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s.) Mr. Goodes and Mr. Lauder hit it off—”brothers in another life” is how Mrs. Goodes describes them—and Mr. and Mrs. Goodes have supported the ADDF for the past few years. At the organization’s annual dinner in New York on April 26, the Goodes will announce a new $1 million pledge to ADDF. “God bless Leonard Lauder,” says Mrs. Goodes. “There are a lot of Alzheimer’s organizations out there, but no one doing anything for research.”

Donor of the Day: Gift Establishes Business School.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 25, 2012. The college taught him to think broadly, “be it philosophical or ethical,” says Mr. Madden. “It continues to give back to me as an institution.” For that reason, on Thursday Mr. Madden will announce his latest and largest gift of $7 million to establish the Madden School of Business at Le Moyne. Mr. Madden, 63 years old, graduated from Le Moyne in 1971 with a degree in economics and a minor in philosophy. He went on to earn his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and has had a 30-year career in the securities industry and merchant banking, specializing in energy. Since the mid-1980s, Mr. Madden has taken on increasing leadership roles at Le Moyne, serving for a time as chairman of the board of trustees and regularly visiting campus to lecture. He was part of a group of alumni that worked to establish the school’s MBA program, and he endowed the Madden Institute for Business Education. He says he thought carefully about his latest gift and the naming of the school because it’s not just a donation but a responsibility to take an active role in the college. “Whenever I’m involved in anything, I’m really involved,” he says. “This will be the major focus of my philanthropy and nonbusiness activities.”

Double-Marathon For Parkinson’s.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2012. The greatest kind of encouragement often comes from the closest friend. For best friends Bret Parker and David Samson, the encouragement is reciprocal. Mr. Parker, 44 years old, the vice president and associate general counsel of Elizabeth Arden Inc., needed support to tell people about having Parkinson’s disease. And on Friday, Mr. Samson, 44, the president of the Miami Marlins, will need an extra push from Mr. Parker as he runs a double marathon for charity. Mr. Samson has selected 10 charities to benefit from his run, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The friends have raised $100,000 for the foundation.

A Doctor Walks for MS.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 27, 2012. Alan D. Legatt is no athlete. And he doesn’t get hot flashes, either. But this weekend, his running and walking team, the Hot Flashes, will be participating in several fundraisers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Dr. Legatt has been walking in support of the organization for the past 12 years. In that time, he has raised just over $350,000 for the group, bringing in an average $10,000 a year through solicitations to colleagues and friends. Dr. Legatt, 61 years old, is an attending in the Department of Neurology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and a professor of clinical neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His team’s name came from a group effort in 1999 to walk the New York City Marathon. (A colleague came up with the name and Dr. Legatt says he was the token male on that first team.) That marathon led to invitations to participate in other runs and walks around the city. Dr. Legatt had never walked for charity or asked friends for donations when he started out, but because he had watched a beloved aunt with multiple sclerosis progress to being wheelchair-bound, he wanted to see what he could do to raise money. He figured it was a good strategy to pick a cause and ask people to give yearly.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

RELIGION

Turkey Feels Sway of Reclusive Cleric in the U.S.” New York Times. April 24, 2012 [For story, go to International/Turkey].

The Vatican’s Corrective to Liberal Catholics; A three-year inquiry ends with a sharp but measured assessment of unorthodox religious practice in the U.S.” By Elizabeth Scalia. Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2012. What has happened to Catholic religious life—especially among women—since its heyday five decades ago? In 1956, membership in Catholic religious orders was soaring to historic heights. The sheer number of young women who felt called to the mission of the American church led to the creation, at the Vatican’s behest, of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group answerable to Rome. Flash forward 56 years, and the landscape for religious vocations is very different. Growth that once seemed unstoppable has gone into reverse. Many women left religious life for a world full of revolution and new ideas. Those who remained within the Leadership Conference also changed—so much so that the church sent them a corrective last week. After a three-year investigation into the state of non-cloistered religious life in the United States, the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith produced an eight-page doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference, and its member communities, that identifies areas of keen concern. It cites theological and doctrinal errors; dissenting positions on the “pastoral approach to ministry of homosexual persons”; and the “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes” incompatible with church teaching, including female ordination. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s first duty is to assure that the doctrines of the church are being accurately reflected and communicated to the church body by those canonically representing the faith. Yet its criticisms could not have surprised the sisters, many of whom acknowledge that their communities are “out of step” with Rome.
Related story:
Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns.” By Maureen Dowd. New York Times. April 28, 2012.
We Are All Nuns.” By Nicholas Kristof. New York Times. April 28, 2012.

A faith-based lesson for Paul Ryan; There is something un-Christian about the Gospel According to Paul Ryan. So, at least, says Ryan’s Catholic Church.” By Dana Milbank. Washington Post. April 27, 2012. There is something un-Christian about the Gospel According to Paul Ryan. So, at least, says Ryan’s Catholic Church. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody this month, Ryan, the author of the House Republican budget endorsed by Mitt Romney, said his program was crafted “using my Catholic faith” as inspiration. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was not about to bless that claim. A week after Ryan’s boast, the bishops sent letters to Congress saying that the Ryan budget, passed by the House, “fails to meet” the moral criteria of the Church, namely its view that any budget should help “the least of these” as the Christian Bible requires: the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the jobless. “A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” the bishops wrote. In fact, Ryan would cut spending on the least of these by about $5 trillion over 10 years — from Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and the like — and then turn around and award some $4 trillion in tax cuts to the most of these. To their credit, Catholic leaders were not about to let Ryan claim to be serving God when in fact he was serving mammon. “Your budget,” a group of Jesuit scholars and other Georgetown University faculty members wrote to Ryan last week, “appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.” Ryan didn’t turn the other cheek. He showed up at Georgetown on Thursday to deliver a previously scheduled lecture, and lecture he did. He said the faculty members would benefit from a “fact-based conversation” on the issue. “I suppose that there are some Catholics who for a long time thought they had a monopoly .?.?. on the social teaching of our church,” he said, but no more. “The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it.”

With Prison Ministry, Colson Linked Religion and Reform.” By Mark Oppenheimer. New York Times. April 27, 2012. “Since the 1960s, prison reform has been seen as a leftist cause,” Robert Perkinson, a historian and the author of “Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire,” said this week. “But it used to be a Christian cause, and Colson played a big role in bringing prison reform back to Christian conservatism.” Dr. Perkinson was referring, of course, to Charles W. Colson, the convicted Watergate felon who died last Saturday. In his first act, Mr. Colson was “Nixon’s hatchet man” and “the ugliest of the Watergate thugs, the most shamelessly vicious,” as one historian wrote this week in The New Republic. But Mr. Colson, who found Jesus shortly before entering prison, remade himself as a free man, in 1976 founding what became Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners. In the process, he played an important role in the ever-changing relationship between prisons and religion. Historians of penology — there are many — remembered Mr. Colson as someone who, in a small way, pointed American prisons back toward their roots. Scholars speak of two rival impulses in American incarceration: one an older, Christian reform impulse and the other a disciplinary and retributive impulse, focused on punitive labor and harsh conditions, which gained strength in the slaveholding South. Mr. Colson advocated more humane, less crowded prisons; more prisoner contact with the outside world; more rehabilitative services; and better services for re-entry to society. Against the conservative and evangelical tides, Mr. Colson was, in a sense, returning to the spirit of the 1960s, or even the 1790s.

Temple Makes Austin the Place to Find Peace and Joy.” By Michael Hoinski. New York Times. April 28, 2012. Each morning Lama Lobtsul, the lama in residence at the Buddhist center Palri Pema Od Ling in Austin, enters the temple and performs the important task of arranging offerings of water, candles and incense in front of the rare statue of Guru Rinpoche. This 13-foot-tall, 2,500-pound brass representation of the India Buddhist master who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century radiates like a beacon from behind picture windows overlooking busy 45th Street, across from the Hyde Park Christian Church, in a mostly residential area. There is more to the statue than meets the eye. It is filled with medicines, mantra prayers and approximately 1,000 books, including the canonical text and teachings of the Buddha. It is also heavy with flashy adornments, among them a trident with a staff made of three heads representing the three kayas, or expressions of the Buddha. In Guru Rinpoche’s lap sits a blue, white and gold kapala, or skull cup, filled with a nectar that represents spiritual awakening. The increasing interest in Buddhism in the Western world is attributable to its adoption by public figures like the actor Richard Gere, the musician Leonard Cohen and the tech guru Steve Jobs, as well as the growth of the Asian-American population. This spreading of Buddhism to a new, receptive audience is the silver lining to the plight of the Tibetan people, as epitomized by the Dalai Lamai’s exile. And while their reason for coming to Austin is known, their continued investment in it, through Lama Lobtsul’s tenure, is a mystery.

Pastor Joel Osteen: An Everyday Message, Magnified.” All Things Considered/
National Public Radio. April 28, 2012. Joel Osteen is one of the most influential religious figures in the world. His Sunday sermon at Lakewood Church in Houston is beamed to more than 10 million households in America and is seen in 100 countries around the world. Part of what makes Joel Osteen so popular is his message, but probably more importantly his style. There is no fire and brimstone, not even a whole lot of scripture, almost no talk of sin and definitely no politics. Joel Osteen is at the vanguard of what’s come to be known as motivational preaching. And for that reason, he’s easy to like. His new book is called “Every Day a Friday.

A Different Intersection of Church and Politics.” Ginia Bellafante. New York Times. April 27, 2012. Issue-specific protests are now so ubiquitous on the menu of New York experience that Mr. Hart has had plenty to do since the police cleared Zuccotti Park of demonstrators in November. Last week had him rallying in Union Square to denounce the rise of student debt. Several days earlier he was arrested at the Brooklyn Supreme Court for participating in an action organized in part by Karen Gargamelli, a Queens housing lawyer who sought to disrupt foreclosure auctions by gathering demonstrators to sing during them. Two weeks ago, 63 arrests were made in a series of these disturbances around the city (which take place under the banner Organizing for Occupation), and many of those hauled off were, like Mr. Hart and Ms. Gargamelli, members of the Catholic Worker Movement. May 1 marks the 79th anniversary of Dorothy Day’s great achievement: a movement whose vision of activist faith couldn’t be farther from the moralizing of the religious right that has seemed to define Christianity’s incursion on politics since the 1980s. The Catholic Worker, which Day founded with Peter Maurin, a French immigrant, was — and remains — a philosophy, a social initiative, a way of life. Its understanding of personal responsibility maintains not that we all must rely on ourselves, but rather that we are all beholden to better the lives of the less fortunate. On May 1, 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, Day took to Union Square handing out the first copies of her newspaper, also called The Catholic Worker, which delivered the message of compassion and justice at the cost of one penny; the price has never gone up. The movement has always sought “a new society in the shell of the old” — peace, less disparity of wealth, an end to economic exploitation, violence, racism and so on. Its goals can seem broad but its methods are intimate and practical. Around the country and in various parts of the world, Catholic Worker communities exist as households where lay members, typically committed to voluntary poverty, often live among the homeless and needy they are aiding. It is a model for Occupy Wall Street — like that more recent movement, it is decentralized and decisions are largely made by consensus — which has said it will hold protests around the country on Tuesday, historically a significant day for the labor movement. There are no headquarters or board of directors and, since Day’s death in 1980, no leader. Things have hardly faded: in the past 17 years, the number of communities has grown from 134 to more than 210.