WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

INTERNATIONAL

GENERAL

Schwarzenegger launches new climate-change group; The international organization of states and provinces intends to move ahead on the issue despite the failure to achieve a global climate pact in Copenhagen last year.” By Margot Roosevelt. Los Angeles Times. November 17, 2010. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday launched an international organization to tackle climate change with leaders from regional governments in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and the United States. The failure to achieve an international climate pact in Copenhagen last year left many people discouraged, Schwarzenegger said, addressing several hundred delegates to a “climate summit” at UC Davis. But now, he added, “The sub-nationals should do their work…. The green revolution is moving forward full speed ahead without the international agreement.” Despite Schwarzenegger’s cheerleading, the signing ceremony for the Regions of Climate Action group, known as the R-20, had a lame-duck quality. Only one other U.S. governor, outgoing Democrat Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, was present for the signing in the half-empty auditorium; no provincial leader from China, Earth’s largest carbon-emitter, agreed to join the effort. Schwarzenegger officials had predicted that about 100 government leaders would sign the pact to cooperate on climate change; but in the 11 months since the governor first announced the initiative, only about 25 states and provinces have agreed to be part of the group. Besides Doyle, the group includes the governors of Michigan, Oregon and Washington.

BELGIUM

Catholics in Belgium Start Parishes of Their Own.” By Doreen Carvajal. New York Times. November 16, 2010. Don Bosco is one of about a dozen alternative Catholic churches that have sprouted and grown in the last two years in Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium and the Netherlands. They are an uneasy reaction to a combination of forces: a shortage of priests, the closing of churches, dissatisfaction with Vatican appointments of conservative bishops and, most recently, dismay over cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests. The churches are called ecclesias, the word derived from the Greek verb for “calling together.” Five were started last year in the Netherlands by Catholics who broke away from their existing parishes, and more are being planned, said Franck Ploum, who helped start an ecclesia in January in Breda, the Netherlands, and is organizing a network conference for the groups in the two countries. At this sturdy brick church southwest of Brussels, men and women are trained as “conductors.” They preside over Masses and the landmarks of life: weddings and baptisms, funerals and last rites. Church members took charge more than a year ago when their pastor retired without a successor. In Belgium, about two-thirds of clergymen are over 55, and one-third older then 65. “We are resisting a little bit like Gandhi,” said Johan Veys, a married former priest who performs baptisms and recruits newcomers for other tasks at Don Bosco. “Our intention is not to criticize, but to live correctly. We press onward quietly without a lot of noise. It’s important to have a community where people feel at home and can find peace and inspiration.” Yet they appear to be on a collision course with the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Belgium. The Belgian church has been staggering from a sexual abuse scandal with 475 victims, and the resignation of the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who last April admitted to years of molesting a boy who turned out to be his nephew. In the view of Rome, only ordained priests can celebrate Mass or preside over most sacraments like baptisms and marriage. “If there are persons or groups that do not observe these norms, the competent bishops — who know what really happens — have to see how to intervene and explain what is in order and out of order if someone belongs to the Catholic Church,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said. The primate of Belgium, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels, has already raised objections to the alternative services, calling them “unacceptable practices.” But he declined to respond to questions, maintaining a pledge to keep silent until December. He was engulfed in controversy this month after he criticized prosecution of elderly priests for pedophile acts as “vengeance” and described AIDS as a “sort of inherent justice” for promiscuous homosexual acts. For some Catholics in the ecclesia movement and academics at the Catholic University of Louvain, Archbishop Léonard is emblematic of a remote church disconnected from a flock that yearns for more relevant rituals and active participation.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Vatican government is a ‘train wreck’: Experts.” By Alessandra Tarantino. USA Today/Associated Press. November 16, 2010. If you are waiting for the Vatican to make clear, immediate and transparent responses to the ongoing global sexual abuse crisis, well, don’t hold your breath, two Vatican experts said Monday at a media seminar. Neither can you expect anything to come from the 30 minutes or so that the world’s cardinals will address this topic, among five topics on their agenda at their business meeting in Rome on Friday. The frankly grim visions of Vatican structure and function — in crisis moments and daily governance of a church of 1.2 billion people — came from George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II and author of numerous books on the Church and John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter Vatican specialist for 15 years and a biographer of Pope Benedict XVI. They agreed there is, essentially, no media strategy, no war room, no one with a handle on reforming communications or, worse, reforming the governing structure itself. They spoke to reporters and columnists at this week’s Faith Angle conference sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center on how the media has covered the 2002 explosion of the abuse crisis in the USA and the Spring 2010 sweep of the crisis across Europe. Vatican officials, Weigel said, “can appear to be dissembling or disinterested when there is no well-formed intent to deceive, they just don’t know what’s going on,” said Weigel. And their default position — no story is a good story — “is completely dumb.”
Related stories:
Vatican issuing guidelines on sex abuse to bishops.” USA Today/Associated Press. November 19, 2010.
Vatican Preparing New Guidelines to Deal With Sexual Abuse.” New York Times. November 19, 2010.
Vatican tells bishops to crack down on abuse.” Independent/Reuters. November 20, 2010.
Vatican to issue guidelines on sex abuse.” BBC News. November 19, 2010.

CHINA

China ordains bishop despite Vatican objection.” No by-line. BBC News. November 20, 2010. China’s state-backed Catholic church has challenged the Vatican by ordaining a bishop without papal approval – the first such ceremony since 2006. Guo Jincao’s ordination was carried out in the north-eastern city of Chengde amid a strong security presence. Eight Vatican-approved bishops are believed to have been forced to attend the ceremony. China’s millions of Catholics are split between followers of Pope Benedict XVI and members of the state-backed church. Hundreds of people – including government officials – attended the ceremony, according to AsiaNews, a Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency that closesly follows religious affairs in China. The agency said that eight bishops, who were in communion with the Vatican, were also present. China’s state-back Patriotic Chinese Church has so far made no public comment on the ordination. China and the Vatican have had no diplomatic ties since the 1950s, when Beijing expelled foreign clergy. However, the Vatican and China’s state-backed church have since reached a tacit agreement on the appointment of new bishops, the BBC’s David Willey says. The Vatican warned earlier this week that it would regard any attempt by Beijing to force Chinese Catholic bishops, who were in communion with Rome, to attend the ceremony in Chengde as a grave violation of freedom of religion and of conscience. This would also damage relations between China and the Vatican, the Pope’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

FRANCE

The Louvre Takes Its Tin Cup Out.” No by-line. New York Times. November 20, 2010. Paris may have a claim on being the art capital of the world, but one of its most hallowed cultural institutions, the Louvre, has gone to the French public with its hat in hand. According to Agence France-Presse, the museum is asking the public to contribute money to help buy “The Three Grâces,” an exceptionally well-conserved 1531 work by the German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder. It is the first time in the museum’s 217-year history that it has sought contributions to buy a painting. Its owners are asking $5.4 million, but the museum has managed to amass only three-quarters of that. The painting shows three young women naked against a dark background, with the middle figure wearing a red hat. “It’s a work that is amusing, troubling and mysterious, as well as very sensual at the same time,” the Louvre’s president, Henri Loyrette, said in The Guardian.

HAITI

A School Fights for Life in Battered Haiti.” By Deborah Sontag. New York Times. November 14, 2010. A new plan for reforming Haiti’s weak educational system envisions a publicly funded network of privately managed schools, similar to what has developed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It calls for subsidies to and accreditation of the nonpublic schools that educate some 82 percent of Haitian students. But, like the Collège Classique Féminin (known as C.C.F.), many independent schools are in danger of collapsing financially before such a public-private partnership can be realized. They are struggling to reopen and stay open, to rebuild, and to retain student students and teachers. Forty-six years after its founding, C.C.F., a once-elite school catering to lower-middle-class girls who aspire to be the doctors, engineers and teachers of Haiti’s future, is fighting for its life. So are many other battered institutions, from hospitals to universities, during this limbo period before reconstructions begins. “You have to be really determined right now,” said Marie Alice Craft, another C.C.F. director. “If you’re not, the whole thing will fall apart, and we can’t allow that to happen. The adults are exhausted, but these kids deserve a future. We can’t let C.C.F. fail, just like we can’t let Haiti fail.” In the first week of October, Haiti’s reconstruction commission approved a $500 million Inter-American Development Bank project to reconstruct the education sector. That same week, the back-to-school date of Oct. 4 proved little more than “symbolic,” as Pierre Michel Laguerre, the Education Ministry’s director general, put it. With thousands of schools damaged or destroyed, hundreds of temporary replacements were still being built by Unicef, the government, the Digicel Foundation and others. Schools had to be cleared of rubble and of displaced people; families had to scrape together money for uniforms and fees.

Save Haiti from aid tourists; The ‘republic of NGOs’ is in a vicious circle of dependence and institutional infantilism.” By Rory Carroll. Guardian (UK). November 16, 2010. There was so much goodness packed on to the plane there was almost no room for me. I had a boarding pass but by the time I got to the gate every seat was filled. This was American Airlines flight 575 from Miami to Port-au-Prince and the passengers were on a mission to help Haiti. A volunteer agreed to take a later flight and I squeezed on. The front rows had people in orange T-shirts, further on there were blue ones and at the back lime-green, each with a Haiti-related logo. Instead of the in-flight magazine, people were reading engineering manuals, budget reports, the Bible and books with titles such as Touching Them Now and Forever. Spirits were high. We were on our way to another world, which would provide a sense of purpose, not to mention adventure. “Welcome aboard!” beamed the steward. Two hours later, as we trooped off into blinding Caribbean sun, the steward was still beaming. “Bye bye!” I was too depressed to smile back. During the flight I had been reminded by the passenger seated beside me how do-gooding outsiders can screw up Haiti. What made it all the sadder was the fact he was nice, decent and humane. It is harsh to identify Ed Hettinga and his group, Mission to Haiti Canada, as exemplars of an unfolding tragedy. Each member was coming on his and her own time and dime (air fare alone, £980) and was almost certain to improve the lives of some Haitians. Villains in Haiti’s suffering include France, which crippled its former colony with two centuries of immoral debt; the US, which bullied Haiti to cut food tariffs, swamping the country with US imports and destroying homegrown agriculture; donors who have welched on funding pledges; and Haiti’s political and business elite, cocooned in luxury and indifference.

INDIA

Sati temple in Haryana university.” By Deepender Deswal. Times of India. November 16, 2010. A sati temple on university campus! And people actually go there to worship after being granted permission by authorities of Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agriculture University ( CCSHAU) at Hisar. The temple, symbolizing the now obsolete practice of burning of a woman on her husband’s pyre, is said to have been in existence before the construction of the university. However, the varsity allowed the family to use the approach path to the temple on certain conditions about a decade ago. In a reply under the RTI Act to Subhash, state convener of Haryana Soochna Adhikar Manch, the varsity authorities said the temple complex, spread over approximately 300 square yards, existed prior to the transfer of land to the university. They admitted that on a written request from a Hisar-based family, they allowed the use of a pathway leading to the temple. But the varsity put three conditions for the family to use the path —no addition/alterations or additional construction of any kind will be allowed in the area; permission to use the approach path will not entitle the family to any right of ownership and that the area earmarked for the temple as per revenue record — 300 sq yards — will continue as such without any encroachment. In 2004, the family again approached the vice-chancellor for permission to fix stones on the chabutara but he turned down their request. The family members regularly perform puja and other rituals at the temple. The ‘mundan sanskar’ (first hair cutting ceremony) of every male child of the family is performed at this temple, varsity officials said.

India Microcredit Faces Collapse From Defaults.” By Lydia Polgreen and Vikas Bajaj. New York Times. November 17, 2010. India’s rapidly growing private microcredit industry faces imminent collapse as almost all borrowers in one of India’s largest states have stopped repaying their loans, egged on by politicians who accuse the industry of earning outsize profits on the backs of the poor. The crisis has been building for weeks, but has now reached a critical stage. Indian banks, which put up about 80 percent of the money that the companies lent to poor consumers, are increasingly worried that after surviving the global financial crisis mostly unscathed, they could now face serious losses. Indian banks have about $4 billion tied up in the industry, banking officials say. “We are extremely worried about our exposure to the microfinance sector,” said Sunand K. Mitra, a senior executive at Axis Bank, speaking Tuesday on a panel at the India Economic Summit. The region’s crisis is likely to reverberate around the globe. Initially the work of nonprofit groups, the tiny loans to the poor known as microcredit once seemed a promising path out of poverty for millions. In recent years, foundations, venture capitalists and the World Bank have used India as a petri dish for similar for-profit “social enterprises” that seek to make money while filling a social need. Like-minded industries have sprung up in Africa, Latin America and other parts of Asia. But microfinance in pursuit of profits has led some microcredit companies around the world to extend loans to poor villagers at exorbitant interest rates and without enough regard for their ability to repay. Some companies have more than doubled their revenues annually. Now some Indian officials fear that microfinance could become India’s version of the United States’ subprime mortgage debacle, in which the seemingly noble idea of extending home ownership to low-income households threatened to collapse the global banking system because of a reckless, grow-at-any-cost strategy.

Adarsh scam could have been detected 2 yrs ago.” By Prafulla Marpakwar. Times of India. November 21, 2010. A week after Ashok Chavan stepped down from the chief minister’s post, it has emerged that the flat allotment scam pertaining to Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society could have been detected way back in 2008, had the then civic authorities taken note of a letter pointing out blatant violation of norms. According to official records, an NGO — National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) — had filed a complaint letter on August 27, 2008. But the Mumbai collector, BMC and MMRDA commissioners, principal secretaries of the urban development (UD) and revenue departments and the head of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) failed to act on the same. The MCZMA did take note eventually , but after a year. Interestingly, the authority had even drafted a demolition notice, but it was never served. In the complaint, NAPM’s Simpreet Singh asked why the defence authorities never objected to the high-rise building, which had several civilian members of unknown credentials owning saleable flats, despite the fact that it was just a stone’s throw from sensitive defence installations. “Under such circumstances … the construction should be stopped immediately,” Singh had said in the complaint letter. Singh alleged that BMC did not take action as the son of a senior civic official had cornered a flat at Adarsh. Same was the case with several senior bureaucrats in the UD department. The fact that high-level politicians as well as senior officials from the Mumbai collectorate also became members ensured that successive collectors turned a Nelson’s eye to the illegal activities and refrained from prohibiting construction . The MCZMA was also reluctant to initiate demolition procedures in view of the involvement of top defence officials , cabinet members and high-ranking bureaucrats.

LATIN AMERICA

Q&A: Community Radio Stations – Key Players in Expanding Democracy.” No by-line. Interpress Service (ips.net). November 16, 2010. Chilean journalist María Pía Matta, a feminist and staunch believer that communication is a universal right based on freedom of expression, is the new president of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). Matta was elected at the end of the Nov. 8-13 Tenth World Assembly of Community Radio Broadcasters in the Argentine city of La Plata, 56 km southeast of Buenos Aires, whose theme was bolstering the effectiveness of community radio stations to help achieve greater social justice. The more than 5,000 community radio stations that belong to AMARC on every continent should have increasing legal recognition, “because they are a key tool for expanding democracy at the local and global levels,” she says in this interview with IPS. Matta, a social activist and journalist who has been involved in alternative media from the start of her career, is head of La Morada, a Chilean NGO dedicated to improving the lives of low-income women. La Morada founded in Chile Radio Tierra, the first feminist radio station in Latin America. As vice president of AMARC, she was a prominent advocate of community radio in the region, where these alternative stations are growing and flourishing in a broader context of social and political reforms ushered in my left-leaning governments. She will now focus her experience on the global network of community broadcasters, while pressing for growing participation by women in community radio and in the leadership of AMARC.

UK

Higher fees ‘will make more study in the US; Ivy League institutions such as Harvard have a large number of bursaries and scholarships.” By Joanna Sugden. Times of London. November 15, 2010. Rising numbers of British school leavers are choosing to take degrees in America attracted by generous bursary schemes, said a leading headmaster, as the cap on fees at UK universities is set to almost treble. Figures published today by the Fulbright Commission indicate that in the past academic year 8,861 students from Britain studied in the USA, up 2 per cent on the previous year. It contrasts with a 4 per cent decline in the number of students from other European countries crossing the Atlantic to attend college. Andrew Halls, headmaster of Kings College School Wimbledon, said he had seen a “quantum leap” in pupils’ interest in studying in America since higher tuition fees were announced the Government this term. “If the tuition fee comes in, parents and students are going to look abroad in a way that we haven’t seen,” he said. “There will be a great deal of resentment in the middle classes about serious university courses which the Government wants people to study but which are going to lead to such huge debt and higher interest rates. America is now looking much more viable.”

Catholic Church to unveil plans for defecting Anglicans this week.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. November 16, 2010. The Roman Catholic Church will this week unveil proposals for the new church structure for defecting Anglicans as up to 50 clergy prepare to follow five bishops into the new Ordinariate. Catholic bishops from England and Wales are meeting in Leeds where they are “exploring the establishment of the Ordinariate and the warm welcome we will be extending to those who seek to be part of it,” said Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary in the Westminster archdiocese. Bishop Hopes, himself a former Church of England priest who was received into the Catholic Church in 1994 after the vote to ordain women priests, has been appointed to oversee the Ordinariate, or extra-geographical diocese for ex-Anglicans. The resignations of the five bishops who announced their departure last week will take effect from Christmas. A source close to the defectors said at least 50 clergy had indicated their intention to go as well, “and that is just the first tranche,” he added. All the clergy and bishops will have to be re-ordained because the Catholic church teaches that, no matter how saintly or traditionalist a priest has been in his pastoral and sacramental duties, Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”

Cable says Oxbridge, UCL and LSE threatened to ‘go private’ over fees; The Business Secretary said the top universities were likely to remain as public institutions.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. November 16, 2010. A group of top English universities threatened to “go private” if the Government forbade them to raise tuition fees, Vince Cable said yesterday. He said Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and the London School of Economics were among those who said they would reject state funds and finance themselves through fees, research grants and endowments. Leading universities have always dismissed such claims. But Dr Cable, the Business Secretary, who is responsible for universities, told a conference of independent school heads that several were prepared to do so unless tuition fees were raised substantially. “One of the reasons we are doing this is precisely to head off Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, UCL and a few others from going private,” he told them. “If we had not opened up the system they would have a very strong incentive to do so. Whether we shall head them off, I don’t know.” He was speaking at the annual conference of the Girls’ Schools Association in Manchester, and was asked by Patricia Kelleher, headmistress of Perse Girls’ School in Cambridge, about suggestions that Cambridge would become a private university. Dr Cable said the top universities were likely to remain as public institutions. He said: “It’s a little bit like bankers who say if you’re going to put some kind of tax on us we’ll run away to Singapore. Universities have been playing this game with us — let us have unlimited caps or we’ll privatise. I don’t believe it. I think what we’re proposing is a fair settlement which will provide them with enough income to provide high quality education and which is also fair to the pupils.”

Diane Abbott demands inquiry into corporations’ role in health policy; Shadow public health minister ‘shocked’ by government move to include McDonald’s and others in plan to tackle health crises.” By Felicity Lawrence. Guardian (UK). November 15, 2010. Diane Abbott, the shadow public health minister, is calling for the health select committee to launch an inquiry into government moves to put McDonald’s, PepsiCo and food manufacturers such as Unilever and Kellogg’s at the heart of writing policy on obesity, diet-related disease and alcohol misuse in the UK. Abbott said she was “shocked” by revelations in the Guardian that the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has set up five networks dominated by the food, alcohol and retail industries to write “responsibility deals” between business and government to tackle the crises of public health. She is writing to the select committee asking it to investigate. Leading public health experts joined Abbott in expressing deep concern about the government’s strategy of inviting industry to volunteer measures on public health instead of taking the lead with mandatory action. Professor Philip James, who was the lead adviser to the government on the setting up of the Food Standards Agency, and until recently chair of the International Obesity Task Force, said he was “scandalised” by the government inviting industry to help draft public health policy. “It is a major setback for the health of the nation. The sabotaging of public health by the food industry is universally recognised,” he writes in the Guardian today. The heart disease prevention expert Professor Simon Capewell joined the condemnation. He said the responsibility deals with business were a “cynical public relations smokescreen for industry interests”. Abbott accused the government of putting business interests ahead of public health. “I was shocked to discover that the health secretary is involving companies like McDonald’s and PepsiCo and big manufacturers in shaping policy on nutrition. There is a wealth of literature that shows that junk food and fast food is the worst kind of diet and rather than taking advice from people who peddle it we should be helping people avoid it. This government has already in just a few months sold out the interests of the nation to the interests of big business,” she said.

Community groups may be given power to buy public services; Government encouraged to go further than its existing plans to hand assets to communities and allow them to be sold.” By Allegra Stratton. Guardian (UK). November 15, 2010. The government is being advised to allow community groups the right to buy and run services such as libraries, ports, schools, hospitals, prisons and police stations. Paying homage to one of the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s most iconic ideas – enabling people to buy their council houses – leading Tory philosopher Phillip Blond yesterday called for its wholesale application to all state assets. The government already has existing plans to hand assets to communities but Blond’s proposals, in a report for Res Publica with Steve Wyler, extend much further in both type of asset that could be sold and the capacity for individuals to profit. At the weekend, the decentralisation minister Greg Clark issued guarded support for the plans. There is also speculation that similar ideas could be contained in the forthcoming localism bill, which will set out how power will be devolved from Whitehall to neighbourhoods. On Sunday, Clark said that community groups need to have more power to stop assets disappearing. He said: “For too long, people have been powerless as they watch community assets disappear.” The localism bill, Clark said, would have “at its heart” a “right to challenge”, which would “abolish the monopoly power of the state to dictate how services are provided”.

Don’t neglect schemes that build community spirit; Links within a community are vital in tough times, says Ted Cantle.” No by-line. Guardian (UK). November 16, 2010. There is a sense of inevitability about the impending impact of this new age of austerity. We all now expect unemployment to rise, services to be cut and individuals and families to face real hardship. “We knew it had to come,” is a common refrain. But there seems little by way of any serious attempt to mitigate the impacts and improve the resilience of our communities. These communities are today at greater risk. In the past, societies have coped with periods of crisis by drawing upon reserves of communal spirit and by using local institutions and collective activities which are particularly important in harder times. For many communities there are now no resources to draw upon. The decline of traditional bonds and especially the demise of local clubs and societies and the links with neighbours and within families themselves is often exaggerated, but is nevertheless real for many communities. This, combined with increasing pressures from lack of job security and economic uncertainty, creates a breeding ground for blame, tension, misunderstandings and extremism. Many community- based organisations, often funded on a shoestring and run by just a handful of dedicated staff and volunteers, provide some of the vital glue that holds communities together. Cutting off cash for grassroots groups may be an easy option but could be a false economy. Given the tendency for a blame culture to emerge in times of hardship – and we have seen the biggest rise in Far Right activity in recent years – now is not the time to lose sight of any local work which is building bridges between communities. On a simple economic level, all the anecdotal evidence points to how crucial decisions about investments by potential employers are made on the reputation of specific towns, cities and regions. Any potential for disruption is obviously bad for business, but so is any lingering sense of malaise or bad feeling about a place. Firms will simply avoid, or choose to move away from, areas where there are community breakdowns and that will mean greater economic divide and more investment required by government to support them. Perhaps just as important is the way that people tend to leave poorer areas as they succeed in getting a job or finding the wherewithal to do so. People will only stay in an area if they have a sense of belonging and believe it can support and provide for them. Poorer areas are often faced by the flight of financial and human capital. Keeping grassroots cohesion activity going will be essential as a means of seeing many communities through the economic downturn, helping groups worst hit by redundancies, and preventing individual problems becoming whole community tensions.
Related story:
Social problems need early action, says Community Links; David Robinson of pioneering London charity, Community Links, says early action is crucial to social regeneration and will save money in the long run.” Guardian (UK). November 17, 2010.

All schools can apply for academy status.” By Alison Kershaw. Independent (UK). November 17, 2010. All primary and secondary schools can apply to become academies – as long as they team up with an outstanding school, Michael Gove will confirm today. The Education Secretary insisted the plans would help drive up improvement in every school in England. It means a satisfactory school can apply, providing it joins up with an outstanding school. Earlier this year, Mr Gove wrote to every primary, secondary and special school in the country inviting them to apply for academy status. Schools rated outstanding by Ofsted were pre-approved and their applications were fast-tracked. According to new figures published today, 224 applications have been received since July. About 200 schools, including those in federations, have been given an Academy Order, and 80 have opened so far. A further 64 academies have replaced schools that were failing. Mr Gove will say: “We know that the best way of improving schools is by getting the professionals who have already done a brilliant job to spread their wings. That is why we are now allowing more schools to benefit by allowing all schools to apply for academy status, if they are teamed with a high-performing school.”

Government accused of ‘sleight of hand’ over tuition fees.” By Oliver Wright. Independent (UK). November 18, 2010. Thousands of the poorest graduates will be worse off under the Government’s higher education reforms because of a statistical “sleight of hand” by ministers, The Independent has learnt. The change means that graduates earning just £18,000 a year in today’s money will have to start paying hundreds of pounds a year to the Treasury when they leave university in 2016. When the Government announced the scheme earlier this month, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, suggested that repayments would not start unless a graduate was earning at least £21,000 a year. Last night the respected economic think-tank the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) withdrew its assertion that up to 30 per cent would be better off following a clarification of the figures by the Department of Business. It is now thought that only 20 per cent of future graduates will benefit from the plans, with eight out of 10 graduates paying more than at present. Last night the National Union of Students (NUS) accused ministers of issuing misleading information and called on them to “urgently clarify” the situation. John Denham, Labour’s shadow Business Secretary, described the revelation as “astonishing.”

David Cameron – you’re undoing the ‘big society’ we were making; The voluntary sector could provide the growling engines of the ‘big society’. Yet coalition cuts are wrecking its infrastructure.” By Ally Fogg. Guardian (UK). November 18, 2010. Exactly six months ago, on 18 May 18 2010, David Cameron officially launched the “big society”, saying: “I profoundly believe that if we want real social change – if we want to solve our deepest social problems, whether it’s drug abuse, whether it’s problems of poor housing, whether it’s problems of deep and entrenched poverty, whether it’s the problem of children in care – it’s going to be [through] the voluntary sector, social enterprises … we have to involve your organisations, and work with you and through you.” Most of the public were unconvinced. But to me and many others who work in the voluntary, charity and community sectors, the new government’s aspirations seemed far from fanciful. We spend every day supporting Britain’s millions of volunteers as they work to improve the lives of those around them, helping those in need, strengthening communities, cleaning up neighbourhoods, perhaps taking opportunities to learn new skills and improve their own prospects in the process. Our reaction to the “big society” was not disbelief or mockery, but a slightly exasperated cry: “But that’s what we’ve been doing for years!” The coalition government did not create the big society. But within half a year they have gone a long way towards destroying it. Despite pleas from the prime minister and ministers for local authorities to protect the sector, charities and voluntary groups are currently being decimated by funding cuts. The big society is crumbling before our eyes.

Government spending: Britain’s reliance on private firms revealed; Whitehall struggles to wean itself off high-cost contracts as government takes unprecedented step of publishing its accounts.” By Polly Curtis. Guardian (UK). November 19, 2010. The scale of the country’s reliance on private companies to power the state is revealed today as the government takes the historic step of publishing its accounts for the first time. The disclosure of the majority of payments made by government departments over the first five months after the election reveals Whitehall’s struggle to wean itself off high-cost contracts – and a burgeoning industry emerging around the coalition’s reforms. It also reveals the lingering waste in the government machine, with civil servants sent on chocolate-themed awaydays, training for civil servants in how to have “difficult conversations”, and nightclubs rented for official meetings. Downing Street spent £55,000 renovating David Cameron’s offices after his election. The data includes 194,000 individual payments made by every government department between May and September this year. It shows everything from the student loan bill to the Whitehall phone bill, giving an extraordinary insight into the government’s books. Eton was paid £40,000 of taxpayers’ money to work with state schools, £1.17m went on in-cell TV for prisoners who have earned the privilege, and £6.6m on free coal for ex-miners. Publication of spending data was at the heart of the coalition’s promise to make government more transparent but today is the first time it has released figures relating to its own period in government. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said publication would force civil servants to re-evaluate their spending and encourage companies to undercut their rivals to reduce costs further.

School pupils plan national walkout over tuition fees; Thousands sign up for day of protest action over cuts; Facebook groups set up to rally support around Britain.” By Matthew Taylor, Paul Lewis and Bibi van der Zee. Guardian (UK). November 19, 2010. Thousands of schoolchildren and sixth formers are expected to take part in a national walkout on Wednesday as student protests over fees, which saw more than 50,000 people march in London last week, are stepped up across the country. More than 16,000 young people have signed up to take part in the “day of action” and student leaders are predicting sit-ins, demonstrations and occupations in protest at plans to raise tuition fees and scrap the education maintenance allowance [EMA]. At the forefront of the demonstrations will be thousands of school and FE students – some as young as 15 – who have organised scores of walkouts across the country. “The great thing about what has happened over the last week is that this idea of protest has embedded itself in the wider student community,” said Michael Chessum, 21, co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) which called the protest for next week. “All of a sudden there is a feeling that we do have some power that we can change things through peaceful direct action.” Facebook groups supporting the day of action have sprung up across the country, with pupils and FE students taking a leading role.

Inside Nick Hornby’s Ministry of Stories.” No by-line. Guardian (UK). November 19, 2010. Author Nick Hornby and art entrepreneurs Ben Payne and Lucy Macnab open the first Ministry of Stories centre in east London. Based on Dave Eggars’ San Francisco project 826 Valencia, the volunteer-run Hoxton Street Monster Supplies aims to inspire children in creative writing. It has already found favour with David Cameron and his ‘big society’ agenda. [video]

“http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article2814074.ece
.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. November 19 2010. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England went into open warfare for the souls of traditionalist Anglicans today with the Catholic Church offering its own churches for defecting bishops and clergy. In a further move the Catholic bishops of England and Wales announced that the structures for receiving defecting Church of England traditionalists will be established by January — far sooner than expected. The Catholic bishops, still facing a multimillion-pound shortfall over the Pope’s visit, announced that a £250,000 fund is to be set up to finance the new Anglican Ordinariate. Individual dioceses are also to give cash to the defecting five bishops, 50 clergy and at least 30 groups or Church of England parishes expected to make up the first tranche of those taking up the Pope’s offer to defect. Catholic dioceses will have to find houses to serve as homes for the Anglican clergy and bishops, who stand to lose their vicarages and stipends when they cross over. The announcement came the day after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had indicated that defecting Anglicans would be welcome to remain in their parish churches under church-sharing arrangements.
Related story:
50 Anglican priests ‘to defect to Catholic church’.” Independent (UK). November 19, 2010.

Hard times are past as lottery aids Charles Dickens museum.” By Steve Bird. Times of London. November 20, 2010. The home where Charles Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist is to receive £2 million from the National Lottery Fund. The Charles Dickens Museum will use the money to help it to house more than 10,000 books, documents and manuscripts relating to the author’s life. Dickens lived in the townhouse in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, from 1837 to 1839, but after the success of The Pickwick Papers he moved his family to larger premises near Regent’s Park. The Doughty Street house was converted into a museum in 1925. Dickens wrote from a study on the second floor, which still contains the desk he used throughout his career. The lottery grant will be used to restore the building while doubling its exhibition space. The funding follows the controversial decision to give £10 million for a visitor centre at Stonehenge in Wiltshire despite the Government having withdrawn backing for the plan this year. Four other projects were given initial support by the Lottery Fund, the first step towards receiving a full grant.
Related story:
Dickens house finds generous benefactor in Heritage Lottery Fund; Property in central London receives £2m grant to renovate in time for bicentenary of author’s birth in 2012.” Guardian (UK). November 20, 2010.

The ‘Big Society’ crisis on Cameron’s doorstep–Special report: Across Britain, record numbers of vulnerable people are turning to Citizens Advice – just as the organisation faces cuts. Sean O’Grady finds the Prime Minister’s constituency among the hardest hit.” No by-line. Independent (UK). November 20, 2010. Britain’s Citizens Advice Bureaux face a funding crisis just as they are being hit with an unprecedented increase in demands on their resources, especially by people finding themselves in debt. Some are seeing their local authority funding cut by two-thirds at a time when the number of clients seeking help with debts, benefits and homelessness has as much as doubled. The West Oxfordshire bureau, in David Cameron’s constituency of Witney, is one of those badly affected. Speaking to The Independent, Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, warned that there was definitely a risk to the most vulnerable from benefit changes that were being introduced too quickly, with “unintended consequences”. She also said cuts to legal aid would affect the bureaux. She urged ministers to “pause for breath” and delay implementing some of the most controversial reforms, especially to housing benefit. Consumers also face the biggest setback to their cause in decades, she warned, as Citizens Advice was under no obligation to take on the work of Consumer Focus, the soon-to-be abolished quango, as ministers had planned. Ms Guy’s social concerns centred on the “cumulative effect” of changes to housing and council tax benefit, which will prompt many people between the ages of 25 and 35 to share homes. She urged ministers to “please be cautious and delay or phase changes, to housing benefit in particular”. She said: “There isn’t sufficient evidence that all the cumulative impact of the different measures have really been looked at.”

Raising funds for worthy causes; Fundraising is a tough job but the reward of bringing hope to those who need it the most is worth the hard work.” By Liza Ramrayka. Guardian (UK). November 20, 2010. Professional fundraisers use their powers of persuasion to get donors – including the public, business, grant-making trusts and foundations, and lottery funds – to part with their cash. But skills shortages combined with spending cuts and a drop-off in donations are making this task increasingly difficult for the thousands of people whose job it is to bring in the money for organisations such as charities, voluntary and community groups, museums and galleries, sports clubs and universities. We examine the challenges facing today’s fundraisers and explores the skills needed to address them. With a Guardian/Institute of Fundraising survey highlighting skills shortages in middle and senior management, we look at what fundraising organisations are doing to attract new blood. What can professionals from the public and private sectors bring to fundraising? Where can these so called “sector switchers” go for advice and training? Our survey found that what fundraisers love most about their job is the challenge and the diversity it offers. Meanwhile, recruiters rate passion and commitment higher than a degree or fundraising qualifications. We ask fundraisers about their routes into the job and why they do it. For years, charity shops have helped students to update their wardrobes and music lovers to find rare vinyl. But charities are bringing these high-street fixtures into the 21st century to attract new customers. We discover how a more commercial approach is reaping rewards for charities such as Save the Children and Tenovus. Finally, we consider how social media such as Facebook and Twitter can help fundraisers reach new supporters. Can a tweet have the same effect as a telephone call?

Michael Gove’s plan to slash sports funding in schools splits cabinet; Education secretary’s proposal angers athletes and teachers; Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley voice their doubts.” By Toby Helm and Anushka Asthana. Guardian (UK). November 20, 2010. A battle is raging at the heart of government over a decision by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to slash £162m of sports funding in English schools as the country prepares for the 2012 Olympics and bids for the 2018 World Cup. The Observer has learned that fears about sports provision being cut back dramatically in the state sector have been voiced in cabinet by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and the health secretary, Andrew Lansley. Gove’s decision to end all ring-fenced funding for sport – which would threaten most after-school clubs and severely reduce the number of trained PE teachers and sports coaches – has also caused dismay among MPs, leading athletes and the teaching establishment. Many sports co-ordinators have already been told they will not have a job after the end of the financial year in March. One senior figure close to the discussion said it was an “atrocious decision” that ran contrary to efforts to build an Olympic legacy – and to David Cameron’s vision of a “big society”. It comes just weeks before the prime minister travels to Switzerland to support England’s bid for the World Cup.

Michael Gove denies plans for Whitehall to directly fund schools; Education secretary appears to perform U-turn by saying schools will continue to be funded through local authorities.” By Jo Adetunji. Guardian (UK). November 21, 2010. The education secretary, Michael Gove, appeared to perform a volte-face today by denying plans to introduce direct funding for schools. Speaking on BBC1′s Andrew Marr Show, Gove said he was not planning to bypass local authorities in favour of funding all schools directly from Whitehall, as was reported in the Financial Times a week ago. Gove challenged the paper’s claims that he had spent months preparing plans to reform the system, and said he had always intended to fund schools through local authorities. It was reported last week that schools would no longer receive money at the discretion of local authorities, but would be granted a direct allowance in proportion to the number of pupils, with headteachers free to decide how to spend their budgets. In a draft white paper drawn up by Gove’s department, a proposed education funding agency would administer the direct funding programme from 2013. “The Financial Times ran a report of what they thought was going to be in the white paper,” Gove said. “Fair play to them, but the truth is that we will be funding schools through local authorities, as we do at the moment.” But the FT was quick to defend the story today, and accused the minister of throwing in the towel after facing criticism over the plans.

VATICAN

Church Evolves, but Roster of Cardinals Changes Little.” By Stacy Meichtry. Wall Street Journal. November 19, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI will convene a meeting of cardinals Friday to discuss the biggest challenges facing the church, ranging from religious freedom in oppressive countries to the sexual-abuse crisis. A day later, he will create 24 new cardinals in a Vatican ceremony, known as a consistory. While Friday’s meeting reflects the pope’s attempt to set the agenda for a global Roman Catholic Church, its College of Cardinals—the group responsible for picking the next pope—has limited reach. The college is still skewed toward Europeans, particularly Italians, even as the church’s 1.2 billion members span the globe and most of its new priests and faithful come from the developing world, especially Africa and Asia. The college will become even more lopsided on Saturday, when the number of Italian cardinals under the voting age limit of 80 will grow from 17 to 25—the same number of Italians that voted in the conclave that elected Pope John Paul II in 1978. Sixty-two cardinals will come from Europe, compared with 56 in 1978. The imbalance stems from church traditions that, though not written in stone, are hard for popes to break. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to change is the tradition that popes should limit the number of voting-age cardinals to 120. That makes it difficult for any pontiff, including Pope Benedict, to radically alter the college’s geographical scope in a single consistory.

WIKILEAKS

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/nov/18/wikileaks-founder-faces-swedish-detention-rape

“WikiLeaks founder faces Swedish detention over rape case; Sweden’s chief prosecutor asks for court order to detain Julian Assange on suspicion of rape, sexual assault and coercion.” By Matthew Weaver and agencies in Stockholm.
Guardian (UK). November 18, 2010.
Sweden’s chief prosecutor today asked for a court order to detain the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, for questioning in a rape case. The move could mean that prosecutors were preparing an international arrest warrant for the Australian, whose whereabouts were not immediately clear. A warrant for his arrest was first issued in August, but it was dropped within 24 hours when prosecutors said the accusations against him lacked substance. After prosecutors reopened the case Assange was questioned by Swedish police at the end of August, for about an hour according to his lawyer. At the time Assange issued a statement on Twitter saying: “The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing”. His supporters claim he is the victim of a smear campaign. WikiLeaks has angered the Pentagon by releasing thousands of classified US war reports from Afghanistan and Iraq. Assange travelled to Sweden in August to seek international legal protection for his website under Swedish law after WikiLeaks published 90,000 leaked documents about US military activities in Afghanistan from 2004-2010.
Related stories:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11785281

“Sweden seeks Wikileaks’ Julian Assange over rape case.” BBC News. November 18, 2010.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/19/world/europe/19assange.html?ref=todayspaper

“Sweden Issues Warrant for WikiLeaks Founder.” New York Times. November 18, 2010.

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