Archive for June, 2012

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Catholic Group Targeting Obama.” Wall Street Journal. June 20, 2012. [For stories on this, go to Religion].

“Stirring the constitutional pot.” Op-ed. By Ruth Marcus. Washington Post. June 19, 2012. In the age of eight-figure checks to super PACs, is it time for a constitutional amendment that could end this dangerous farce? The notion of fiddling with the First Amendment should make anyone nervous — especially anyone who has spent a career benefiting from it. Then again, so should Sheldon Adelson’s $10 million check to Mitt Romney’s super PAC. A system that lets one individual pump so much money into supporting a favored candidate threatens to substitute oligarchy for democracy. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe has long opposed such tinkering. But writing last week for Slate, Tribe proposed an amendment, since introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), that would allow “content-neutral limitations” on independent expenditures. Tribe told me he changed his mind because “there’s no serious prospect” that a majority of the Supreme Court “will see the light in our lifetimes.” Meanwhile, he said, the “distortive effects of Citizens United and its aftermath are becoming clearer every week.” For all of the lamenting over the 2010 ruling in Citizens United, the trouble began far earlier, in the 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo. Citizens United and a later appeals court ruling simply made clear that the Adelsons of the world could band together — hence, the super PAC — to spend unlimited funds to elect favored candidates. Buckley erected a distinction between limits on campaign contributions (okay, to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption) and limits on campaign expenditures (invalid, because they restrict political speech without, the court said, furthering the anti-corruption interest). The contribution/expenditure distinction has been assailed by both sides. Yet there are valid reasons to limit contributions and to offer more leeway on the spending side. For example, the money that poured into Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, in limited donations, reflected his immense popular support. But the distinction collapses in theory, and becomes pernicious in practice.

Change.org Drops Michelle Rhee Group Under Pressure From Progressives.” By Ryan Grim. Huffington Post. June 19, 2012. In a surprising reversal, Change.org, the progressive online powerhouse that channels grassroots energy into petition-based activism, has dropped two anti-union clients, including Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, according to multiple sources familiar with the decision. The move comes after intense pressure from the labor movement and other progressive allies, who accused the for-profit company of betraying its liberal roots by partnering with Rhee, the former head of Washington, D.C., public schools, and the similarly aligned group Stand for Children headed by education advocate Jonah Edelman. The ouster of StudentsFirst and Stand for Children was confirmed by a Change.org spokesman. Leaders of Rhee’s group were outraged. “We’re surprised at their decision,” Nancy Zuckerbrod, spokeswoman for StudentsFirst, told HuffPost. “When we spoke to them this afternoon, they couldn’t point to a single one of our petitions on their site that violated either the terms of use or spirit of their organization. Not a single one. In fact, they said they agreed that much of the work of our members were in line with the progressive values of the organization. And it’s clear that the Change.org community does as well, as tens of thousands of them signed our petitions fighting for the civil rights of all children to receive a high-quality education. For instance, more than 47,000 people signed our petition in support of the Dream Act, compared to fewer than 4,000 who signed the heavily organized protest petition on a different site against Stand for Children.” Change.org’s meteoric rise has included a host of glowing profiles and the Time magazine stamp of approval when it named CEO and founder Ben Rattray one of the 100 most influential people in the world. It is staffed by some of the most talented progressive organizers in the country — many of whom are well known and liked in the tight-knit liberal community, making the feud that much more bitter. And Edelman is the son of liberal champions Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman. StudentsFirst and Stand for Children oppose teachers unions as obstacles to education reform, and advocate on behalf of tying teacher pay to test scores and other student metrics.

Planned Parenthood’s Self-Destructive Behavior.” By Campbell Brown. New York Times. June 23, 2012. Planned Parenthood’s has a large target on its back. At no time in the organization’s history has it faced such a concerted Congressional challenge to its agenda. But most worrisome is the organization’s shrinking number of defenders, and Planned Parenthood has only itself to blame. It has adopted a strategy driven by blind partisanship, electing to burn bridges instead of building them. That strategy is damaging, and possibly imperiling, its mission. Most of Planned Parenthood’s work focuses on health care for low-income women, things like screenings for breast cancer and diabetes, and family planning. Despite the claims of its opponents that it’s solely an abortion provider, abortions represent only 3 percent of its work. Almost half of the organization’s funding (46 percent) comes from the federal and state governments, making it imperative that it have friends in both parties. But that’s tough to do when Planned Parenthood sees ideological purity as so paramount that it permeates every aspect of its strategic planning. There is almost no room for even slight deviations. Those who are not in lock step with the organization are viewed as enemies to the cause. This mind-set will doom Planned Parenthood to failure. When an organization is willing to support only lawmakers who are with it 100 percent of the time, it virtually guarantees that the debate will be bitterly partisan. President Ronald Reagan, while hardly a favorite of the abortion rights movement, did offer a brilliant lesson when he said, “the person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.” Planned Parenthood needs allies, or it will continue to become rigid, calcified and increasingly ineffective.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

ARTS & CULTURE

Benefit performance celebrates Conduit Dance for 17 years of helping Portland dance community.” No by-line. Oregonian. June 17, 2012. If Conduit Dance’s origin story is humble, its reach has been hugely influential. In what was then a Portland dance-arts vacuum, co-founders Linda K. Johnson and Mary Oslund launched the center in 1995 with the goal of creating a training, rehearsal and performance space. Conduit’s evolution through artistic collective (four additional choreographers joined the start-up) to non-profit has shaped the landscape of contemporary dance in Portland, training dancers, commissioning local artists, launching companies and careers. Saturday’s benefit performance, “Just 17 Birthday Bash,” at the downtown Pythian Building showcased Conduit’s diversity, profoundly demonstrating its history and the caliber of its artistry. Johnson, in an oral chronology accompanied by shedding layers of clothing, traced Conduit’s trajectory far beyond the region and into the history of modern dance in America. Weaving together names, dates and movements of Conduit performances past, Johnson danced the touchstones and nicely honored the late Keith V. Goodman, a beloved community builder and one of Conduit’s original six core artists.

A Jazz Museum Grows Up.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. June 17, 2012. The fourth-floor space on East 126th Street does not look anything like a museum. Flourescent-lighted and largely bare, the room appears to be an office but for a weathered grand piano that sits in the middle of the floor and a few faded photographs that adorn the walls. But the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, one of the city’s lesser-known cultural lights, has never really been about its artifacts. It has always been about the music: the improvisational genius of Charlie Parker, the percussive piano of Thelonious Monk, the elegant stylings of Duke Ellington. The music draws some 7,500 people to the building each year for free programming like Jazz for Curious Listeners, which explores the history of jazz or Harlem Speaks, an interview series with musicians, artists, writers and community leaders. In about three years the team, which includes Loren Schoenberg, the museum’s artistic director, and Christian McBride, a bassist, is scheduled to open a new 10,000-square-foot home for the museum in the former Mart 125 across from the Apollo Theater on 125th Street. The building will be shared by retail stores and by ImageNation Soul Cinema, which runs an independent film festival. The New York City Economic Development Corporation, which selected the museum for the site two years ago, is working with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone to secure a development partner for the remaining space in the building. The city has contributed $10.5 million toward the $19 million project, bringing the total raised so far to $13.5 million. Of 47,000 square feet in the building, 17,000 will be devoted to cultural space. Though young and small (it was founded in 1997, has a full-time staff of just seven and an annual operating budget of $1.3 million) the museum has several advantages. It is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, which means it ca n borrow from the Smithsonian’s collection of musical artifacts (for an annual fee of $2,500). Its board members include the horn player Wynton Marsalis and the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

“Favell Museum in Klamath Falls loses big benefactor, works to attract visitors.” By Kimberly A.C. Wilson. Oregonian. June 23, 2012. Gene Favell had an idea to bring great American art to a small American town. The Klamath Falls clothier’s painstakingly curated legacy, the Favell Museum of Western Art and Indian Artifacts, may be the best museum in Oregon you’ve never heard of. The collection of 100,000 pieces nestled in a snug stonework building alongside the Link River reflects Native American history in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, with ancient Indian craftsmanship and tools displayed alongside modern artworks by contemporary Western painters and sculptors. With Favell’s death in 2001 and then the death two years ago of the museum’s major benefactor, boosters have had to get imaginative to make ends meet so they can continue to offer a place for people to see what researchers consider a broad personal collection of regional history. Favell gathered most of the items on his hands and knees, sifting through dry Oregon lake beds to gather many of the 60,000 stone arrowheads on view there. Just 3,000 visitors dropped by in 2011. That’s barely 1 percent of the people who travel 30 minutes north of Klamath Falls each year along busy U.S. 97 to Collier Memorial State Park and Logging Museum. Helping sustain the museum after Favell’s death in 2001 was its steadiest benefactor, Dick Wendt, founder of door and window manufacturer Jeld-Wen. A longtime resident of Klamath Falls, Wendt and his Jeld-Wen Foundation gave away more than $80 million until his death in 2010, targeting local giving toward efforts to preserve American Indian culture through the Favell Museum and to restore and build recreational venues. To make money, the museum rents out a community room and riverfront space for weddings, sells signed and numbered prints by Western artists, set up a patron program and developed a tour in sync with benchmarks for local school curricula.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

CORPORATE GIVING & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

How Google turned evil (Apple and Facebook aren’t much better); Don’t be fooled. The tech firms that run our lives are not as virtuous as they claim.” By John Arlidge. Sunday Times (UK). June 17, 2012. In sunny places with bucolic names such as Mountain View and Menlo Park, the glistening headquarters of Google, Facebook and Apple seem to sweep you up off the pavement with the promise of a glimpse into the future — and a good time. As the firms’ youthful bosses arrive each morning at their eco-friendly offices in their T-shirts and trainers, they like to imagine they are a cut above conventional business leaders. Google’s mission statement is “Don’t be evil” and its founders, Larry Page, 39, and Sergey Brin, 38, say they want to make the world a better place. Facebook’s freshly minted billionaire boss, Mark Zuckerberg, 28, claims he is dedicated to “openness, connecting and sharing”. Before his death last year Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter. Saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters.” The shine is coming off Silicon Valley’s finest, however. It has emerged that Google programmed the vehicles to gather private data, including email, web searches and photographs, from unsecured home wi-fi networks. It also stands accused of trying to cover up what it had been doing. European Union regulators are examining claims that Google is abusing its dominance in the search business by ranking its own products higher up in results than those of its rivals. A similar case in the 1990s tarnished the reputation and hit the profits of Microsoft, then the world’s most fearsome tech behemoth. The latest moves come as Apple faces criticism over its plans, revealed last week by The Sunday Times, for an answer to Street View: an even more intrusive 3-D service using military-grade aerial camera satellites capable of revealing objects as small as 4in across. Facebook is having a torrid time, too. Shares in the world’s most successful social network have fallen sharply since it floated on the Nasdaq in New York last month. To add to its woes, figures released last week showed its hitherto phenomenal growth is beginning to slow: in April, its site had 158m unique users, up only 5% on a year earlier, according to the research firm comScore — the lowest rise since it began tracking the data in 2008. The recent setbacks mean the bosses of the big tech firms will spend a lot less time talking to their flipflop-wearing staff this summer and a lot more time talking to buttoned- up lawyers.

Letting the Mission Govern a Company.” By Dov Seidman. New York Times. June 23, 2012. Three years ago, in front of my 300 colleagues at LRN, I ripped up our organizational chart and proclaimed that none of us would report to a boss anymore. From that point on, we would all “report” to our company mission. Literally. No one would experience life at LRN as someone else’s subordinate. In short, we would strive to become a self-governing company. LRN works with companies to inspire principled performance in their operations. Before that day, we had long worked to become a flat organization. We had never governed behavior exclusively with policies and procedures. And we had rejected performance evaluations based only on numerical outcomes, recognizing that colleagues’ methods and behavior also count. Despite some real progress, though, most of us had begun to feel that we still had a long way to go. We came to realize that self-governance is not only about becoming “flatter.” It is not about a chief executive “empowering” employees or exhorting people to “think outside the box.” Empowering employees only reinforces power — a temporary gift bestowed from on high — as the most important source of authority. And thinking outside the box leaves organizational boxes in place rather than removing them entirely. That’s why 20 LRN teams from around the globe spent six months imagining what a self-governing organization would look like. Our effort to become self-governing has been enlightening, frustrating, nerve-racking, authentic and urgent. It remains a work in progress. We are still striving, for example, to create more clarity in the absence of formal titles. Our mission remains to advance our experiment and help other organizations to embrace this concept as a key to long-term success and significance

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Charter Schools Fall Short on Disabled.” By Stephanie Banchero and Caroline Porter. Wall Street Journal. June 19, 2012. A new government report shows that charter schools are not enrolling as high a portion of special-education students as traditional public schools, despite federal laws mandating that publicly financed schools run by private entities take almost every disabled student seeking to enroll. The report, published Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is the first comprehensive study focused on charter schools’ enrollment of special-needs students, which has been a central issue in debates over those schools’ rapid growth in the U.S. The report showed that special-education students—those with diagnosed disabilities from Down Syndrome to attention-deficit disorder—made up 8.2% of charter school students during the 2009-2010 school year. While that was up from 7.7% the year before, it was below the average at traditional public schools of 11.2% in 2009-2010, and 11.3% the previous year. “These are differences that cannot remain. They are not acceptable,” said Rep. George Miller (D., Calif), a charter-school proponent who asked the GAO to look into the issue. The House passed a bill last year that would make it easier for charter schools to expand, and “we want to make sure that all children—including those who are special ed—have a chance to participate in this revolutionary education reform,” he said. The Senate hasn’t yet voted on the bill. Charter schools have been a flashpoint in the education wars since they began roughly 20 years ago. Run by companies or nonprofit groups using taxpayer funds, charters are free from many bureaucratic constraints of traditional schools and, typically, do not employ unionized teachers. Last year, more than 1.8 million students were enrolled in charters, more than five times the 350,000 enrolled in 2000, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Related story:
Charter Schools Still Enroll Fewer Disabled Students.” New York Times. June 19, 2012.

Column: Winning campaign issue? Charter schools.” By Richard Whitmire. USA Today. June 19, 2012. As a veteran education reporter, I have some advice for parents listening to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama debate this issue. Tune out the phony disagreements such as school vouchers (which are unlikely to make a difference) and instead focus on where the two agree: Launch more great charter schools. Four years ago, a push to ramp up approval for charters, which are publicly funded but independently run schools, would have been somewhat rash. Even the high-flying charters, where inner city kids showed impressive academic growth, had weaknesses: teacher burnout, a shortage of great school leaders and an addiction to foundation funding that impeded rapid expansion. But recent developments give charter schools promise that warrants the blessings of Romney and Obama.

Former Dropouts Push Others To Reach Finish Line.” Weekend Edition Sunday/National Public Radio. June 24, 2012. The National Teachers Initiative is a project of StoryCorps, the American oral history project. Each month this school year, Weekend Edition Sunday will celebrate stories of public school teachers across the country. Mikala Rahn founded Learning Works, a charter school for students who have dropped out of traditional schools. Carlos Cruz, 24, is a graduate of the program and now works there. In Pasadena, Calif., one teacher’s devotion is helping kids graduate. Mikala Rahn is the founder of Learning Works, a charter school for kids who have dropped out of traditional schools.

HIGHER EDUCATION

U-Va. donors threaten to withhold funds over ouster of president.” Washington Post. June 17, 2012. [For stories on University of Virginia crisis, go to Governance].

GOVERNANCE

U-Va. donors threaten to withhold funds over ouster of president.” By Anita Kumar and Daniel de Vise. Washington Post. June 17, 2012.
Related stories:
U-Va. board member, professor quit amid uproar over President Teresa Sullivan’s ouster.” Washington Post. June 19, 2012.
Amid Protest, University of Virginia Picks Interim President.” New York Times. June 19, 2012.
Board Member Resigns After U.Va. President Fired.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. June 19, 2012.
2 New Resignations Rock the University of Virginia.” New York Times. June 20, 2012.
The Corporatization of U.Va.: How the controversy at the University of Virginia reflects the broad shift in our national values.” American Prospect. June 19, 2012.
Helen Dragas: The leader who forced out U-Va.’s president.” Washington Post. June 21, 2012.
U-Va. board to reconsider President Sullivan’s employment.Washington Post. June 21, 2012.
At University of Virginia, Sullivan supporters rally for hours.” Washington Post. June 24, 2012.
University of Virginia students feel betrayed after ouster of Teresa Sullivan.” Washington Post. June 22. 2012.
Ouster of the University of Virginia President Sparks Turmoil on Campus and Debate About Financial Challenges for All Colleges.” Wall Street Journal. June 21, 2012.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

HEALTH CARE

Hospital Merger Talks Take a Turn.” By Anna Wilde Mathews. Wall Street Journal. June 21, 2012. Merger negotiations between two major New York hospital systems broke off as one of them, Continuum Health Partners, agreed to enter into talks with a third institution, Mount Sinai Medical Center. Continuum’s erstwhile partner, NYU Langone Medical Center, said in a statement that it decided to end the discussions after Continuum was approached by Mount Sinai about a combination and agreed to discuss a deal. “Given the good faith in which we have worked with [Continuum] over the past eight months, we have determined that it is in the best interests of NYU Langone Medical Center to suspend all further discussions at this time,” NYU Langone said. In its own statement, Continuum confirmed that the talks with NYU Langone were suspended and said the halt “resulted from Continuum’s decision to consider the possibility for partnership with Mount Sinai Medical Center.” Mount Sinai confirmed it had approached Continuum’s board. In a statement, it said its leaders felt Continuum “has every right to explore any and all merger options, and we look forward to meeting with them.” The deal talks reflect the pressure on hospitals to marry up or risk being isolated amid larger, merged rivals. Nationally, hospitals are coming together at a rapid clip, and adding to their doctor workforces, under pressure from shrinking government reimbursements and evolving payment models that can reward them for overseeing all of a patient’s care. The deals enable hospitals to cut costs, and can add to their leverage in rate negotiations with private insurers.
Related story:
Hospital Systems’ Merger Talks Collapse as New Suitor, Mount Sinai, Steps In.” New York Times. June 21, 2012.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

“Nursing home funding to be slashed.” By Mark Metherell. Sydney Morning Herald. June 22, 2012. The federal government will slash the growth in funding of nursing home care in a bid to stabilise surging costs that have flowed from the rising numbers of frail residents. The Ageing Minister, Mark Butler, said he proposes to limit increases in subsidies to rises of 2.7 per cent a year in real terms. This is a drastic cut from the 6 per cent growth rates that have been financed by the government over the past four years. His announcement follows widespread unease among nursing home providers about the impact of the recent reforms for aged care financing announced in the budget. One industry estimate was that the government would cut another $500 million out of aged care spending.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Pa. monsignor becomes 1st US Catholic official convicted for covering up abuse complaints.” No by-line. Washington Post. June 22, 2012. A Roman Catholic church official was convicted of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy Friday in a landmark clergy-abuse trial, making him the first U.S. church official branded a felon for covering up abuse claims. Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priests were being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said. Lynn, 61, served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. “Many in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia hierarchy had dirty hands,” Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said. “They failed to realize that the church is its people.” Williams said he did not have sufficient evidence last year to charge other officials, including Bevilacqua, who died in January at age 88. Lynn had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced — conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment. He was convicted of only a single endangerment count, which carries a possible 3 1/2- to seven-year prison term. The jury could not reach a verdict for Lynn’s co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1999. Despite Lynn’s acquittal on the conspiracy charge, the trial exposed how deeply involved the late cardinal was in dealing with accused priests.
Related stories:
High-Level Catholic Priest Is Convicted.” Wall Street Journal. June 22, 2012.
Philly Monsignor Guilty Of Child Endangerment.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. June 22, 2012.
Jury Is Deadlocked in Monsignor’s Trial.” Wall Street Journal. June 20, 2012.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/us/monsignor-lynn-jury-says-it-is-deadlocked.html?ref=todayspaper

“Jurors Report Split Over Church Abuse Charges.” New York Times. June 20, 2012.

DEVELOPMENT

Progress on the Sidelines as Rio Conference Ends.” By Simon Romero and John M. Broder. New York Times. June 23, 2012. Burdened by low expectations, snarled by endless traffic congestion and shunned by President Obama, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ended here as it began, under a shroud of withering criticism. The antipoverty organization CARE called the meeting “nothing more than a political charade,” and Greenpeace said the gathering was “a failure of epic proportions.” The Pew Environment Group was slightly more charitable. “It would be a mistake to call Rio a failure,” the group said, “but for a once-in-a-decade meeting with so much at stake, it was a far cry from a success.” But while the summit meeting’s 283-paragraph agreement, called “The Future We Want,” lacks enforceable commitments on climate change and other global challenges, the outcome reflects big power shifts around the world. These include a new assertiveness by developing nations in international forums and the growing capacity of grass-roots organizations and corporations to mold effective environmental action without the blessing of governments. The sheer size of the gathering — nearly 50,000 participants including more than 100 heads of state or government — may have raised expectations, in spite of the mixed record of previous such gatherings. The first Rio summit meeting produced two landmark treaties, on climate change and biodiversity, that have so far failed to live up to their promises.

INDIA

Hydel projects are closed at the instigation of US: NGO.” No by-line. Times of India. June 18, 2012. A Dehra Dun-based NGO spearheading a campaign for building hydel projects on the river Ganga in Uttarakhand, today alleged the projects are being shut down in India at the “instigation” of the US. “It is at the US instigation that hydel power projects are facing closure so that India buys uranium on their terms”. “Today, people in the state are facing severe shortage of power for which the state government, the Centre, saints and some foreign-funded agencies are responsible who are, in the name of Nadi Bachao (save river) campaign are hell-bent upon closure of these hydel power projects,” RLEK chief Avdhash Kaushal charged in a statement amid a protest meeting by Shankracharya Swami Swaroopanand in New Delhi today. “It is a well known fact that electricity and water are interrelated. This is not only a problem of Uttarakhand but a problem of entire North India of which Delhi too is a part. The acute water and power shortage being faced by the region is due to pressure created by the sadhus for stalling these hydel power projects by the agencies that are funded by the US and the UK”, Kaushal said. Stating that due to unscientific facts and superstitious beliefs given by a few people the work on Pala Maneri (480 MW). Bhaironghait (381 Mw) and Lohari Nagpala (600MW) projects were scrapped and the same people are trying to put roadblocks in the completion of 420 Mw Lakhwar-Vyasi project. He also claimed work on Alaknanda project (330MW) is also being hampered. “All these projects would have produced a total of 2441 MW of power which would have given tremendous relief to people of Uttarakhand as well as Delhi, Kaushal claimed.

UK

Care system sanctions child sex with adults, report finds; Teenagers in care who were used for sex by men were viewed as making a ‘lifestyle’.” By Andrew Norfolk. Times of London. June 18 2012. A belief that it is acceptable for adults to have sex with children who “consent” to their abuse is ingrained in the child protection system, a damning report into children’s homes claims today. Vulnerable children are being failed by the professionals charged with protecting them, MPs from across the political spectrum will say. They are demanding an urgent independent investigation into a care system that is “not fit for purpose”. The Times understands that an official review into children’s homes is likely to be announced by the Government in the near future. The report, from a joint parliamentary inquiry into children who go missing from care, identifies flaws in the way that agencies record, share and respond to information about those at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. Multiple failings exposed in Greater Manchester last month when nine members of a sex-grooming network were jailed for sex offences against teenage girls are found to be “happening all over the country”. Today’s report, by two all-party parliamentary groups, says that “a scandal involving children going missing from care” went “pretty much unnoticed until the recent cases of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale and other places”. It notes that although £1 billion is spent each year to care for the 5,000 residents of children’s homes in England — an average of £200,000 per child — it has become “easy for predators to sexually exploit them”.

Live Q&A: How does your charity use social media?” By Kate Hodge. Guardian. June 21, 2012. Join our experts from 1pm to 3pm on June 26 to discuss how your charity uses social media and how this could be improved. New research suggests that social media is becoming an integral part of people’s daily lives and charities should be making more use of this. The voluntary sector has often been considered a great proponent of social media. From the nfptweetup to global tweet chats, charities are constantly challenging the boundaries of social networks. But are they doing enough? New research suggests that charities should be expanding their use of social media, away from just fundraising and communications to service delivery. The survey, conducted by the social enterprise Connect Assist, found that social media is an essential source of support and information for people – particularly younger generations. The sector is, however, “worryingly behind the curve” when it comes to using this potential. With this in mind, our next live Q&A will consider: • Examples of innovative uses of social media; • How to expand your charity’s social media function; • The common pitfalls to avoid; • What help and support is available.

Why charities should create bespoke volunteering opportunities; Creating tailor-made volunteering opportunities allows charities to be driven by volunteers’ passion not just propped up by it.” By Sally Higham. Guardian. June 21, 2012. Volunteers are no longer ‘one size fits all’, older and available for years on end – they are now often young, seeking work experience, studying and job-hunting, and therefore increasingly transient. Organisations need to address this and consider moving away from traditional job placements. Instead they should seek volunteers with the appropriate range of skills who fit into the charity ethos and develop their own roles – with help of course. Not all volunteers want to be perceived as high value to an organisation, nor want the responsibility of a role specially shaped for them. But there are many more out there who would thrive on that. After all, our spare time is so precious, perhaps organisations should be thinking more creatively about volunteers than some of them are doing. Most of us wouldn’t work our regular jobs unpaid, which really says something about the passion of volunteers. Shouldn’t we encourage and reward that passion for everyone’s benefit and create organisations that are driven by volunteers rather than propped up by them?

Gangs steal millions from charities.” By Mazher Mahmood. Times of London. June 24, 2012. Gangs are making tens of millions of pounds from selling second-hand clothes donated by the public in the belief that they are helping good causes, an investigation has found. The gangs exploit lax rules that allow them to collect clothes from doorsteps by linking up with a charity. The system is subject to widespread abuse. The Sunday Times has uncovered evidence of gangs misleading charities about the amount of clothes they collect and creating complex networks of companies to evade payments. The gangs then make millions by shipping the clothes abroad to be sold. During a secretly filmed meeting, one boss said: “If you promise them [the charity] a million [pounds] a year, you might have to give £10,000 maybe . . . There were 100 tons and you write that there were 10 tons. You know, there are three zeros and you have taken two away [sic].” He offered to sell 4 tons of clothing to the reporter without telling the Tree of Hope children’s charity in East Sussex, which should have received the cash. Police estimate that the scam is worth more than £50m a year. Clothes Aid, which collects clothing for some of Britain’s biggest charities, is so concerned by the fraud that it has identified 150 collection firms it suspects of acting improperly. Michael Lomotey, business manager for Clothes Aid, said: “It is a highly organised racket. People deliver leaflets and bags that are designed to make people believe that they are donating to charity when none of the money goes to charity.”

Return of the nasty party.” No By-line. Independent. June 24, 2012. David Cameron will signal today the end of “compassionate Conservatism” with plans for a crackdown on welfare spending for the young, the jobless and those with large families.In a speech which will appeal to the Tory right, Mr Cameron will demand an end to what he calls Britain’s “culture of entitlement”. He will propose:
* Removing or restricting some benefits from out-of-work families with large numbers of children. This could include cuts to child benefit; * Scrapping housing-benefit payments to 380,000 under-25s, worth an average of £90 a week, forcing them to support themselves or live with their parents and saving the Government £2 bn a year; * Making the long-term unemployed carry out full-time community work or lose all their benefits. Conservative sources suggested that some of the benefit changes could be brought in ahead of the next election. However, this was disputed by the Liberal Democrats, who said that they would not allow measures penalising the vulnerable to pass during the lifetime of this Coalition Government. The proposals have also been attacked by charities, which have warned they could lead to a significant rise in homelessness amongst the young.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

LAW & PUBLIC POLICY

“‘Citizens United’ Case Gets Renewed Scrutiny.” By David Welna. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. June 18, 2012. Critics say U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, shown in 2010, backtracked on previous pledges to give high priority to precedent in the Citizens United campaign finance case. As early as Monday, the Supreme Court could decide to revisit its landmark Citizens United ruling of two and a half years ago. That case gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns. Now, a Montana case could lead the high court to take a second look at Citizens United. Meanwhile, the role of Chief Justice John Roberts in the case is also raising questions in Congress. Politicians have battled on Capitol Hill over the Citizens United decision ever since the Supreme Court’s ruling in January 2010. Days later, as President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, he scolded the Supreme Court justices who sat right below him. “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” the president said. Indeed, much of the mountain of campaign money raised this year would not be allowed had it not been for a series of rulings from the court headed by Roberts. And a huge share of that money is benefiting Republican candidates.

Pay property taxes, Rockland tells church; The Aldersgate United Methodist Church has filed a lawsuit claiming Rockland is discriminating against the church in its taxation.” By Heather Steeves. Bangor Daily News. June 18, 2012. The property taxes the city assessed on a local church were fair, the city’s board of assessment and review voted unanimously Monday night. “This is what we wanted; don’t get upset,” said Michael Leonard to a group of Aldersgate United Methodist Church members after the 4-0 vote. Leonard would not elaborate, as the church’s attorney asked the members not to talk about the situation because the church is suing the city over the tax assessment. Last year the city assessed the church’s 1,600-square-foot parsonage on a 1.6-acre piece of land at $246,700 and charged it $4,633 in taxes. The church recently sold that parsonage for $145,000. “The property was substantially overvalued,” argued Mike Lane, the treasurer of the church. Lane said the fact that the property sold for about $100,000 less than the city said it was worth was enough of a reason to believe the church was overtaxed. Had the church’s property been assessed at $145,000 instead of $246,700, it would have been charged about $2,723 in taxes instead of $4,633. The city’s attorney, Kevin Beal, rebutted that by saying that the city has certain ways of assessing to make sure similar properties are valued similarly — which is different than market value. Beal also called the church’s sale of the property a distress sale, and thus the sale price was not necessarily its true value. Lane said this was untrue and the church is in good financial condition. The church only sold the property because no one was using it, nor had anyone used it since 2010, Lane said. The city had already denied the church a tax abatement. Monday night’s meeting was an appeal of that decision, which was ultimately denied. Now the church can go to the superior court if it wants to further appeal the taxes, said Leslie Mulhearn, the Rockland Board of Assessment Review’s chair.

Democrats, GOP debate political non-profits’ donors.” By Fredreka Schouten. USA Today. June 19, 2012. The advertising onslaught against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill has been unrelenting — nearly $7.1 million from outside groups determined to defeat the first-term Democrat in an election still five months away. Nearly all the money — $6.8 million — has come from non-profit groups that don’t disclose their donors’ identities. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced a bill in Congress that would require non-profit political groups to reveal their funders. But voters are unlikely to learn more about those donors before November’s election. Conservatives in Congress have mounted an aggressive drive to block new proposals aimed at unmasking anonymous donations to groups such as Crossroads GPS— which is spending $2 million this month alone on ads targeting McCaskill and two other Democratic Senate candidates. Crossroads GPS, affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove, does not have to reveal its contributors because it is a non-profit advocacy group, not a political action committee. In a fiery speech last week, the Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, denounced a Democratic bill in Congress that would require non-profit political groups to reveal their funders and accused President Obama and his campaign of Nixon-style dirty tricks to restrict opponents’ free speech.
Related stories:
Big Political Donors Shy Away From Public Scrutiny.” Morning Edition/National Public Radio. June 20, 2012.
What Sheldon Adelson Wants.” Editorial. New York Times. June 23, 2012.

Utah: Polygamous Towns Are Sued.” No by-line. New York Times/Associated Press. June 22, 2012. The Justice Department sued two polygamous towns along the Utah-Arizona border on Thursday, claiming discrimination against people who are not members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The civil rights lawsuit was filed against Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most residents are members of the sect, run by Warren Jeffs. He is serving a life sentence in Texas for child sex and bigamy. The lawsuit comes after the Legislatures in Utah and Arizona failed to pass bills aimed at abolishing the Colorado City Police Department, which serves both towns. The Arizona bill was being pushed by the state’s attorney general, Tom Horne, who said Colorado City police officers who are members of the church flout the law. According to the lawsuit, officers allow sect members to destroy crops and vandalize property of nonmembers. Federal officials also say the officers keep underage brides from running away and accuse the cities of refusing to provide electricity and water to nonmembers.

Politics, movements, new economies, culture and on a good day, the nexus of the four. Healthcare and Scalia’s Broken Moral Compass.” By Ilyse Hogue. Nation. June 18, 2012. The Supreme Court’s highly anticipated ruling on Obama’s healthcare reforms could come any day now. Whatever the verdict, expect much ado about the hotly debated role of broccoli in healthcare and arcane explanations of the Commerce Clause that is at the center of the legal case against the individual mandate. But buried deep in hearings filled with legalese and judicial sparring was a short exchange that illuminates an American ideal that truly hangs in the balance with this decision—the idea that in a civilized society, we do not sit idly by and watch our neighbors die. The specific back-and-forth in question occurred on the third day of the hearings between Justice Antonin Scalia and Solicitor General Donald Verilli, the administration official charged with defending the law in court. If you are not a frequent watcher of the Court and therefore not fluent in the cadences of judicial banter, this short, seemingly banal interchange in an exhaustive debate may not have even registered. The “deeply embedded social norm” that Verilli refers to—in fact seems confused that he has to explain to Justice Scalia—is the norm that dictates that people will step in to aid others who are ailing or in danger of death. Scalia’s statement that “you could do it [defy these norms]” eerily evoked the appalling moment at the September 2011 Republican presidential debate when the audience wildly applauded Wolf Blitzer’s stunned probing of whether candidate Ron Paul would allow a 30-year-old uninsured man in a healthcare emergency to die. “Yes!” shouted unashamed audience members, turning a presidential debate into something reminiscent of the Roman Colosseum. When Justice Scalia argued against the social norms that Verilli was presuming sacrosanct, he was essentially saying, “Let him die!”

A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private.” By David Segal. New York Times. June 23, 2012. With public employee unions under attack in states like Wisconsin, and with cities across the country looking to trim budgets, behold a town built almost entirely on a series of public-private partnerships — a system that leaders around here refer to, simply, as “the model.” Cities have dabbled for years with privatization, but few have taken the idea as far as Sandy Springs. Since the day it incorporated, Dec. 1, 2005, it has handed off to private enterprise just about every service that can be evaluated through metrics and inked into a contract. To grasp how unusual this is, consider what Sandy Springs does not have. It does not have a fleet of vehicles for road repair, or a yard where the fleet is parked. It does not have long-term debt. It has no pension obligations. It does not have a city hall, for that matter, if your idea of a city hall is a building owned by the city. Sandy Springs rents. The town does have a conventional police force and fire department, in part because the insurance premiums for a private company providing those services were deemed prohibitively high. But its 911 dispatch center is operated by a private company, iXP, with headquarters in Cranbury, N.J. Does the Sandy Springs approach work? It does for Sandy Springs, says the city manager, John F. McDonough, who points not only to the town’s healthy balance sheet but also to high marks from residents on surveys about quality of life and quality of government services. But that doesn’t mean “the model” can be easily exported — Sandy Springs has the built-in advantage that comes from wealth — or that its widespread adoption would enhance the commonweal. Critics contend that the town is a white-flight suburb that has essentially seceded from Fulton County, a 70-mile-long stretch that includes many poor and largely African-American areas. The prospect of more Sandy Springs-style incorporations concerns people like Evan McKenzie, author of “Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government.” He worries that rich enclaves may decide to become gated communities writ large, walling themselves off from areas that are economically distressed.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

LEISURE & RECREATION

Private Fix for Public Parks; Companies Will Manage Six California Sites to Limit Closures Under Budget Cuts.” By Max Taves. Wall Street Journal. June 17, 2012. California is close to finalizing bids from private companies to take over day-to-day operations of six state parks, including Brannan Island here, in an unprecedented step by the state to prevent mass park closures after stiff budget cuts. On Monday, the state expects to finish its first corporate agreement, under which American Land & Leisure Co. would take over operations of three state parks for five years, the California Department of Parks and Recreation said. Three other state parks also are slated for private management, which covers running all concessions, visitor services, security and parks’ legal liabilities. The state will maintain ownership of the park lands. The corporate bids are part of California’s last-ditch effort to keep more state parks open. The nation’s second-biggest parks system by area after Alaska’s has been in a tailspin in recent years, with annual funding slashed by $23 million—or 20%—since 2009.”I’m not aware of any state that has concessioned the entire operation of a park to a commercial company,” said Phil McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors, a nonprofit funded by state parks. Other cash-strapped states have discussed putting their parks under private management but then not gone through with it. Facing the possible closure of 13 of its 30 state parks, Arizona in 2010 considered auctioning off park management to private companies, said its parks director, Bryan Martin. But the state “was able to engage” cities, counties and tribes to manage the parks, he said. California was scheduled to close 70 of its 278 state parks starting July 1. But besides the six parks covered by corporate bids, an additional 46 parks are now off the chopping block or are in negotiations to continue operating through efforts by municipalities, private donors and nonprofits, according to the parks department.
Related story:
Saving Calif. State Parks: The End Of Public Funding?” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. June 20, 2012.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

MUTUAL BENEFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Harvard Club’s New Face.” By Gary Shapiro. Wall Street Journal. June 17, 2012. A prestigious club celebrated a milestone last week. A small soiree was held in celebration of Nicole M. Parent, the youngest and first female president of the Harvard Club of New York. The evening was marked by a portrait unveiled in her honor. At age 37, Ms. Parent, a managing partner at Vertical Research Partners, an independent equity research firm, ascended to the Club presidency in 2008 and helped guide it through a difficult economic period. She served until January 2011. Ms. Parent joins an august club of her own: Mr. Kinstler has painted seven presidents, 60 cabinet officers, Supreme Court Justices and scores of entertainers, including James Cagney, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck and Tennessee Williams. On 10 occasions, he painted portraits of Gerald Ford. “He wanted me to keep trying,” Mr. Kinstler once joked. Ms. Parent previously worked at Credit Suisse, Bank of America and Citigroup . At the outset of her career, she assisted the chief economist of the New York Stock Exchange. She cut her teeth in the world of finance by studying economics at Harvard, where she is currently serves on its Board of Overseers.

At Century-Old Club, Money Woes Sour the Mood.” By John Leland. New York Times. June 20, 2012. They were supposed to be the grown-up club on the block. As crisis after crisis hit the National Arts Club, the 124-year-old Players, which stands next door on Gramercy Park, seemed to hum above the fray. But now a crisis has come to the Players. The club has had to borrow nearly $2 million from a member to stay afloat, and has had to sell one of its two John Singer Sargent paintings and put the other up for sale to restore the crumbling facade of its building and pay a tax bill dating to 2010. Losses for the fiscal year that ended in April 2011 came to $448,853. Services have been cut, and members have been hit with a $500 increase in annual dues and a $450 assessment. “The club is hemorrhaging money,” said Doug Gerbino, a member who resigned from the board of directors in December 2010 in protest over the way the Players was managed. “There’s an ensconced, stubborn management that’s brought on financial problems, and an aura of fear that if you stick your neck out, you’ll be ostracized.” The Players was founded in 1888 by the actor Edwin Booth to promote the theater and other arts, and has counted Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart among its members. While the club names Ethan Hawke and Angela Lansbury as current members, most who belong are much less famous. John Martello, the executive director since 1993, acknowledged the problems. As he spoke at midday last week, the club was nearly deserted, because it has stopped serving lunch most days and closed the bar before 4 p.m. “Every club in New York is having problems these days,” he said, adding that the sale of the paintings, which he expected to bring in $2 million, was essential to pay off some bills due immediately. The club’s income, mainly from dues, has long failed to cover its expenses, he said, blaming the board and the membership for ignoring this discrepancy. The club needs 1,000 members to break even, he said; after a membership drive, it has 625.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

PHILANTHROPY

Donor of the Day: Generosity That Comes Full Circle.” By Liane Membis. Wall Street Journal. June 17, 2012. Michael Clinton loves playing Secret Santa, even when it isn’t Christmas. When it comes to giving gifts, the Manhattan resident isn’t picking who’s naughty or nice. Rather he allows fate and word-of-mouth to guide his generosity. Mr. Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, spends the majority of his spare time working to affect the lives of people in New York City and around the world. Mr. Clinton, who has spent 30 years in the magazine publishing industry, is the founder of Circle of Generosity, a nonprofit organization that delivers monetary help to people in need through acts of anonymous giving. Circle of Generosity, which formed in 2010, is lead by seven board directors who volunteer their time and meet consistently to plan some 25 anonymous gifts a year. After investing $20,000 personally, the circle has generated nearly six figures in funds for gift-giving. Mr. Clinton has a long history of volunteer involvement in the New York City area and is currently a board member of Volunteers of America and the International Center of Photography, among others. He says that anonymous giving is the best kind because it is “the most pure and authentic.” After conversations with friends, he was inspired to start Circle of Generosity after he realized that he wanted to scale the personal impact that he was making across the globe. Circle of Generosity finds people through word-of-mouth. The organization accepts donations from private donors and then anonymously gives monetary gifts, through the name of the organization, to the providers of individuals in need.

Donor of the Day: Building Character At Summer Camp.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. June 19, 2012. This weekend, 125 children from the New York City area will travel to Poolville, N.Y., for a two-week stay at Camp Fiver, a camp run by the youth development organization Fiver Children’s Foundation. At camp, the kids will participate in all the usual activities—swimming, horseback riding, fishing and weaving—but there’s also public speaking, debate class, a ropes course, college visits and college readiness workshops. The goal of the two weeks is for these underprivileged kids to participate in a “whole self” character education program. The idea: Positive life experiences lead to positive life choices. That’s the focus of Fiver, an organization founded by in 1998 by Thomas H. Tucker, a retired executive of Lehman Brothers. “We live in a world of dreamers and a lot of people never actualize those dreams—Tom actually made his come to life,” says James Roper, managing director of New York-based INTL Provident Group USA. “He’s relentless. He cares. It’s in his heart and gut and for any of us involved, the reason we got involved, was because of Tom.” Messrs. Tucker and Roper go back some 30 years. Mr. Tucker hired Mr. Roper to work at Lehman, serving as his professional mentor and, later, becoming a friend. Mr. Roper was among the original group of “guys” called in to help get Fiver started. Now the organization is Mr. Roper’s primary charitable interest and he currently serves as vice chairman of Fiver’s board of directors. His family and wife, Geri, have been hands-on volunteers at camp. Through the family’s foundation, the Ropers have funded a horse barn and other activities, giving some $30,000 a year.