WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 14-20, 2011)

INTERNATIONAL

ABU DHABI

Abu Dhabi Guggenheim Faces Protest.” By Nicolai Ouroussoff. New York Times. March 16, 2011. A group of more than 130 artists, including many prominent figures in the Middle Eastern art world, says it will boycott the $800 million Guggenheim museum being built in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, unless conditions for the foreign laborers at the site are improved. The new Guggenheim, designed by Frank Gehry, is one of the highest-profile construction projects in the Middle East. It is to be the centerpiece of a sprawling development called Saadiyat Island that includes a half-billion-dollar branch of the Louvre Museum designed by Jean Nouvel, a national museum designed by Norman Foster, luxury resorts, golf clubs, marinas and acres of private villas. The artists’ group says it is responding to a range of abuses that have been reported on the island, including the failure of contractors to repay recruitment fees — which can lead to crippling debt for laborers — hazardous working conditions and the arbitrary withholding of wages. Such problems are not uncommon in a region where almost all low-skilled jobs are performed by foreign workers with few legal rights. “Artists should not be asked to exhibit their work in buildings built on the backs of exploited workers,” Walid Raad, a Lebanese-born New York artist who is one of the boycott’s organizers, said in a statement. “Those working with bricks and mortar deserve the same kind of respect as those working with cameras and brushes.” The artists say that until their demands are met, they will refuse to participate in museum events or to sell their works to the museum.

AUSTRALIA

Wealthy told not to be shy about their philanthropy.” By Adele Horin. Sydney Morning Herald. March 19, 2011. Australia needs its rich donors to be upfront about their philanthropy in order to inspire others to give substantial sums, a new study says. But a culture of ”cutting down tall poppies” forces many philanthropists to head underground. The study, by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology, says Australia does not celebrate wealth or giving, leading many donors to stay in the closet. ”Unquestionably, there is a need for people to talk more about their giving to inspire others,” said Wendy Scaife, the study’s lead author. The study is based on 50 interviews with major fund-raisers and with benefactors who have contributed a donation of at least $10,000. Many said Australia had a significant culture of philanthropy but it was not very visible or acknowledged, and much more could be done to encourage major gifts. The study, A Transformational Role: Donor and Charity Perspectives on Major Giving in Australia, also said the secrecy around philanthropy provided a safe hiding place for rich individuals who contributed little. Dr Scaife, a senior research fellow, said major donors were worried about ”big-noting” themselves. They were also worried about being harassed and not being able to cope with demands. ”The culture of giving remains less culture, more sub-culture,” she said. Media publicity of significant donations was not necessarily the answer, she said, as some big donors wanted privacy. But the study found peer influence could be a trigger for major philanthropy so it was important for people to talk to their family, friends and colleagues about their giving.

BANGLADESH

Nobelist Yunus Working to Ensure ‘Smooth Transition’ at Grameen.” By Pradipta Mukherjee. Bloomberg.com. March 15, 2011. — Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus said he is working to ensure a “smooth transition” of management at Grameen Bank, the microfinance lender founded and headed by him. Yunus appealed to the nation’s top court last week against a High Court decision that upheld his removal as the managing director of Grameen. The central bank had written to Grameen saying Yunus, 70, can’t continue as managing director after age 60. The Supreme Court will hear the appeal today. “We are working on how to ensure a smooth transition to the next capable management,” Yunus said yesterday in a phone interview from Dhaka, Bangladesh, without specifying whether the next person to head the lender will be from within Grameen or someone with experience in microfinance in Bangladesh. “It should be very friendly and forward looking. I do not know how much time the transition will take.” The central bank’s decision may leave Grameen, which has 8.35 million borrowers, without its founder and key executive. Yunus sought the support of the Bangladeshi people on March 7 for a steady transition. “It’s not about me being at Grameen Bank for 60 or 90 years or even more,” he said. “The most important issue is to hand over to a capable management.” Yunus, who won the Nobel Prize in 2006 for his work in founding Grameen, breached retirement norms by staying at the helm past age 60, K.M. Abdul Wadood, the central bank’s general manager for banking regulation and policy, said on March 1.

CANADA

Orchestra, Back From the Brink.” By James R. Oestreich. New York Times. March 20, 2011. THE cryptic title of Richard S. Warren’s history of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, “Begins With the Oboe,” refers to the note A that the principal oboist of a symphony orchestra traditionally sounds to give the other players concert pitch. When the book was published in 2002 (University of Toronto Press), different titles might have suggested themselves: for one, “Ends With a Whimper.” Mr. Warren, the orchestra’s archivist from 1976 to his death in 2002, dutifully chronicled the artistic and financial ups and downs of the Toronto Symphony, which recently announced its 2011-12 season, its 90th. (Better to take that number on faith than to try to puzzle through the orchestra’s discontinuous history, which is traced to 1908 despite abortive earlier efforts and a period under the name New Symphony Orchestra.) Its roller-coaster ride was in general perhaps no wilder than that of most other North American orchestras in the 20th century, but as the Toronto Symphony entered the 21st, many were giving it up for dead. The previous decade had been a particularly tough haul. Responding to threats of bankruptcy in the mid-1990s the players had taken a 15 percent salary cut, but when their contract expired in 1999, they staged a 74-day strike, complete with the usual animosities and budgetary strains. Then in 2001, with little more than a year’s notice, the Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste, who had been the orchestra’s music director since 1994, left. His tenure, Mr. Warren wrote, “had been one of administrative turmoil.” Now the orchestra was in deep financial waters and essentially rudderless. In 2004 season, when Peter Oundjian took over as music director. The signs of rebirth that it trumpeted were evidently audible when the Toronto Symphony last appeared at Carnegie Hall, in 2008. Allan Kozinn, in The New York Times, found it to be “in superb shape.” As it prepares to return to Carnegie on Saturday evening, the Toronto Symphony appears to be flourishing at a time when many North American ensembles are struggling.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Priests and Judge in Abuse Case Spar Over Legal Fees.” By Katherine Q. Seelye. New York Times. March 14, 2011. Four Roman Catholic priests and a Catholic school teacher appeared in court here Monday in the first of what will most likely be several legal skirmishes over whether they will face trial on charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of minors. Most of them sat silently behind their lawyers at the crowded defense table in the packed courtroom, where observers included several other priests and a phalanx of news reporters. But the Rev. James Brennan, who is accused of raping a boy in the 1990s, drew the ire of the judge when he and his lawyer said that they had expected the Philadelphia Archdiocese to pay his legal fees if he were acquitted.
The court session was intended to determine whether the defendants should have a preliminary hearing, in which the evidence against them would probably be laid out. That decision was postponed until March 25, but not before the judge, Renee Cardwell Hughes, engaged in several sharp exchanges with Mr. Brennan and his lawyer over the pay arrangement.
Related stories:
Former church aide fights abuse coverup charge.” Boston Globe/Associated Press. March 15, 2011.
Avenging Altar Boy.” Op-ed. By Maureen Dowd. New York Times. March 15, 2011.
Catholic priest, former Crespi High employee, arrested on sex abuse allegations in Florida.” Los Angeles Times. March 16, 2011.

INDIA

84 applications for new medical colleges.” No by-line. Times of India. March 14, 2011. The Medical Council of India has received 84 applications across India seeking permission to start medical colleges offering MBBS courses from the coming academic year. In 2010, there were just 19 applications for starting new colleges. The four-fold increase in the number of applications could be attributed to the rise in demand for MBBS and postgraduate courses in medicine, said MCI board of governors head Dr Shiv Kumar Sarin. Medical education, he said, was fast becoming a popular option. The council received 3,000 applications for increasing postgraduate seats. ”There is a huge shortage of doctors in the country. For this, existing colleges must also expand. We are in the process of reviewing all the applications that we have received,” he said.

JAPAN DISASTER RELIEF

Lady Gaga launches fundraiser for Japan crisis; Singer joins Linkin Park and Blink-182 in auctioning memorabilia to raise money for victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.” By Sean Michaels. Guardian (UK). March 15, 2011. Since Friday, artists including Justin Bieber and Coldplay have been advocating for earthquake relief, mostly on Twitter. “So tragic,” wrote Britney Spears. “#prayforjapan” suggested Katy Perry. There are routine calls for fans to text certain numbers – such as 90999 in the US – to donate money to the Red Cross. But without an international telethon on deck, this is generally the extent of musicians’ philanthropy. Enter Lady Gaga, Linkin Park and Blink-182, all of whom have announced special Japan fundraisers. Gaga had the largest audience, unveiling a “Japan prayer bracelet” to her almost 9m Twitter followers. This red and white wristband, with characters in English and Japanese, was reportedly designed by Gaga and bears her Little Monsters logo. In just 48 hours, she claims to have raised $250,000 (£155,000) for Japan relief, although it isn’t clear which charity will receive the money. Meanwhile, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda is designing T-shirts to benefit Music for Relief’s aid work in Japan. Music for Relief was founded by Linkin Park as a response to the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami. The band are asking fans to vote on two designs, including an image of an origami butterfly. “We’re going into production ASAP,” Shinoda wrote. Finally, American punk-rockers Blink-182 have set up a charity auction of rare band items. “So sad for what’s happening in Japan,” wrote singer Mark Hoppus. “Gonna dig in the bins & find some old blink-182.” The items he uncovered include handwritten lyric sheets, a former backstage pass, and clothing from a music video. All are on sale at eBay, with proceeds going to the Red Cross. The death toll from Friday’s earthquake is expected to exceed 10,000.

NYC nonprofits, retailers organize for Japan; From restaurants to nonprofits, New York groups started raising funds to help quake victims and aid relief organizations.” By Marine Cole and Adrianne Pasquarelli. Crain’s New York Business. March 14, 2011. Three days after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit the northeast coast of Japan, several New York-based companies and organizations have created disaster relief funds to help victims. The earthquake triggered a tsunami and has prompted two explosions at an atomic plant north of Tokyo, while the death toll from the nation’s strongest earthquake may top 10,000, according to Bloomberg. In New York City, several retailers have already joined in the relief effort. SushiSamba, which has two restaurants and its headquarters in Manhattan, started a nationwide campaign Friday to give to the American Red Cross 100% of the proceeds from a $12 special sushi roll created by its Japanese sushi chefs. As of Monday morning, nearly $4,500 had been raised in the New York City SushiSamba locations. The campaign, which includes restaurants in Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas, will run through the end of March.
“As soon as the disaster happened on Friday, they decided to give back because so many sushi chefs are Japanese,” said a spokeswoman for the company. The Japan Relief Roll Park, created by Wataru Mukai, the sushi chef at SushiSamba at 245 Park Ave. South, is made of kani, eel, tamago and cucumber. Manhattan- based International Cosmetics & Perfumes Inc., which owns perfume brands Creed and Hanae Mori Parfums, began amassing donations over the weekend. A portion of the proceeds from all online sales of Creed and Hanae Mori will go to the American Red Cross, too. Thomas Saujet, president of ICP, said the exact amount to be designated toward the fund is unclear, though he said it should be near 10% of each sale. The company donated a similar amount to victims of the Haiti earthquake last year. “Whatever we raise, I’m sure it will be helpful toward the local community,” he said, noting that they will try to raise thousands of dollars. The effort, which includes a portion of proceeds from the in-store sales of designer Hanae Mori’s newest scent, Hanae Mori Parfums No. 3, will last for one month. Mr. Saujet noted that sending aid to this particular catastrophe is important for ICP because Ms. Mori’s homeland is Japan.

US officials counsel caution when donating money to Japan relief efforts.” Boston Globe/Associated Press. March 15, 2011. The FBI warns that con artists often prey on donors following natural disasters. The Internet Crime Complaint Center says donors should be careful when confronted with unsolicited e-mails asking for credit card information or money transfers. Consumers should try to verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations with an Internet search. Organizations are asking those who want to help to focus on monetary donations. The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross are among the groups accepting $10 donations via text message. To donate to the Salvation Army, text “Japan’’ or “Quake’’ to 80888. Text “RedCross’’ to 90999 to donate to its fund set up in response to the disaster. Accepting text donations broadens an organization’s reach and makes it easy for occasional donors to offer help, said Rachel Wolfe, a spokeswoman for World Vision, a humanitarian agency that focuses on helping children and families. Text 4JAPAN to 20222 to donate $10 to World Vision. Many groups are also using blogs and social media posts to provide updates on their response in Japan and to solicit donations.

International Group Provides Aid In Japan.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. March 15, 2011. Robert Siegel speaks to Lasse Petersen, international director of one of the many relief agencies trying to help in Japan. It’s called Shelter Box, and it distributes boxes of aid to families who are displaced. Each box contains blankets, cooking equipment, and a tent for as many as 10 people. Petersen joins us from Tokyo. He’s just returned from Sendai, and he’ll return there after picking up more supplies in Tokyo.

Relief Groups Consider Withdrawing Operations Amid Threat of Exposure.” By Mitsuru Obe. Wall Street Journal. March 16, 2011. An evolving nuclear crisis in quake-hit Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, could add misery to hundreds of thousands of quake victims by possibly forcing relief organizations to withdraw their operations. Japan’s nuclear crisis deepened as a fresh fire broke out in a quake-ravaged nuclear complex and expats fled Tokyo over warnings of radiation leaks. WSJ’s Mariko Sanchanta and Yumiko Ono discuss. “The Japanese Red Cross Society is committed to rescue any victims, including those of nuclear radiation,” JRCS spokesman Mutsuhiko Owaki said. “But we cannot send rescue workers to places where there is a clear risk of radiation exposure,” he added, indicating that the group will have to limit its operations to areas where such risks are low. In response to an appeal for help from the JRCS, a five-person team has arrived in Japan from the International Red Cross to evaluate Japan’s assistance needs. The team’s assessment on the radiation risks could influence the decision by other countries to send rescue teams to Japan. The Tokyo Fire Department, which currently has about 500 firefighters engaged in relief operations in Miyagi prefecture, said it will have to consider options such as redeploying its rescue workers. “There would be no choice but to take action if the situation became much worse,” a spokesman said. Miyagi is located just north of Fukushima prefecture, the scene of partial reactor meltdowns in the worst nuclear disaster in Japan’s history. Japanese relief teams are fairly experienced in dealing with quake-related disasters. But none anticipated having to deal with a radiation crisis.

A Charitable Rush, With Little Direction.” By Stephanie Strom. New York TImes. March 15, 2011. Disasters, particularly those epic enough to earn round-the-clock news coverage, are a fast way to get donors to open their wallets. So it was no surprise when nonprofit groups, starting with the American Red Cross and moving down to small charities, scrambled to raise money to help the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. But wealthy Japan is not impoverished Haiti. And many groups are raising money without really knowing how it will be spent — or even if it will be needed. The Japanese Red Cross, for example, has said repeatedly since the day after the earthquake that it does not want or need outside assistance. But that has not stopped the American Red Cross from raising $34 million through Tuesday afternoon in the name of Japan’s disaster victims. Roger K. Lowe, a spokesman for the American Red Cross, said his group had sent $10 million to Japan on Tuesday, and had spoken with the Japanese group, which had expressed gratitude for the support. He also shared a note sent by the Red Cross’s international governing body in Switzerland, a missive that was sent out to the American and other national Red Cross organizations and read in part: “At present, the Japanese society is not launching a national or international appeal, but expressions of solidarity in the form of unearmarked financial contributions would be gratefully received.” The American Red Cross keeps 9 percent of any money it raises, which means that as of Tuesday afternoon, it had raised more than $3 million for itself through the Japan campaign. It also plans to cover the costs of the shelters it opened in California and Hawaii when there were warnings that a tsunami might hit there, estimated at somewhat less than $100,000. Mr. Lowe said more money would be sent to Japan as it was collected. Few charitable organizations are actually at work in Japan yet. Reports filed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs show that the Japanese government so far has accepted help from only 15 of the 102 countries that have volunteered aid, and from small teams with special expertise from a handful of nonprofit groups.
Related story:
Aid Groups Temper Their Contribution; Despite Hunger and Homelessness, Global Relief Bodies Keep a Distance, Citing Japan’s Own Skills and Fears of Overlap.” Wall Street Journal. March 17, 2011.
U.S. donations not rushing to Japan.” USA Today. March 17, 2011.
Japanese Relief Donations Not Necessarily Welcome.” Weekend Edition/National Public Radio. March 20, 2011.

Japan donation drive Friday at City Market.” By Will Higgins. Indianapolis Star. March 17, 2011. Hoosiers are coming to the aid of Japan. Here are two ways to help: The city’s Office of International and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Japan-America Society of Indiana will host a donation drive for the organization’s statewide Japan Earthquake Relief Fund from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Indianapolis City Market. Contributions may be made Friday at the donation drive, at www.japanindiana.org, or at branches of Chase, Fifth Third Bank, Old National Bank and PNC Bank. The society will distribute all of the funds to selected and recognized Japanese relief organizations assisting the affected areas. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has joined a fundrasising campaign to help the 30 YMCAs in devastated Japan. The Japanese Y’s have formed a special task force that will focus on victims, children, handicapped, elderly and migrant workers affected by the earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11. There are more than 30 YMCA’s in Japan, including some in hard-hit areas such as Sendai and Morioka.

Japanese Americans meet to share grief, offer prayers and raise funds; Hundreds gather in L.A.’s Little Tokyo, some suffering personal anguish over friends and relatives lost, villages obliterated and an ancestral homeland devastated.” By Teresa Watanabe. Los Angeles Times. March 18, 2011. As fallout from last week’s massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear problems in Japan continue to mount, some Japanese Americans here are suffering personal anguish over friends and relatives lost, villages obliterated and an ancestral homeland devastated. On Thursday, many of them came together in Little Tokyo to express their collective grief, offer healing prayers, and raise funds for relief and reconstruction. “The community needed an opportunity to gather and express their heartfelt condolences and hope,” said Sandra Sakamoto, board chairwoman of the Japanese American Community & Cultural Center. Christian prayers, Buddhist and Shinto chanting, and the scent of burning incense filled the cool night air as a couple hundred people gathered on the community center’s red brick plaza in downtown Los Angeles. After speeches and an interfaith service, the silent crowd lined up to offer incense and light candles for those who died, and prayers of hope for those still alive. Relief funds were accepted by representatives from such community organizations as the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Japan America Society of Southern California and the U.S.-Japan Council. More than 40 Asian American organizations and businesses co-sponsored the memorial event.
Related story:
Anime fans raise funds for Japan.” CNN.com. March 18, 2011.

Make sure that ‘disaster-relief group’ isn’t just a con artist.” By Michelle Singletary. Washington Post. March 19, 2011. [For story, go to Philanthropy].

MEXICO

Cooperatives Offer an Alternative.” By Emilio Godoy. Inter Press Service (IPSnews.net). March 16, 2011. After years of decline, the cooperative movement in Mexico is reviving as a relatively safe haven from the shocks of the neoliberal free- market model of production and the financial and food crises that have affected the country. “Cooperatives have had a positive impact on job creation, investment, education and health. They have helped drive community development,” Juan Domínguez, general coordinator of the Cooperative of Advisers for Social Progress (SCAAS), which has worked with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since 1990, told IPS. Domínguez, a member of the National Network of Researchers and Educators in Cooperativism and Solidarity Economics, is the author of two research publications, the most recent of which is a 2007 book titled “Las cooperativas, polos de desarrollo regional en México” (Cooperatives: Poles of Regional Development in Mexico). In 2005 a group of bean farmers in the northern state of Zacatecas formed a cooperative called “El Granero Nacional” (National Granary), a wholesale centre for agricultural supplies and comprehensive services, to facilitate storage and marketing. “The cooperative has made a real difference; one of the main advantages is bulk marketing,” José Villegas, president of the 600-member cooperative, told IPS. “Farmers store their produce in the warehouses and the cooperative sells it. We also acquire equipment that farmers would not be able to buy on their own.” Each member of the cooperative farms an average of 20 hectares, with an average yield of one tonne per hectare. In 2010 the agriculture ministry guaranteed a price of 0.67 dollars per kilogram of beans. There are some 15,000 cooperatives in Mexico, most of them consumer or producer cooperatives, with a total membership of about five million people, according to information from the Social Development Fund of the Mexico City Federal District government.

SRI LANKA

NGOs Face Funding Gap and Government Scrutiny.” By Feizal Samath. Inter Press Service (IPS.net). March 16, 2011. Lack of donor funding, state phobia against western NGOs, and restrictive work permits for foreign aid workers have together hit the operations of several dozen Sri Lankan NGOs and their foreign counterparts. British-government funded agencies and AusAid, an Australian government agency, have reportedly reduced their funding of local NGOs. U.S.-based Care International is also cutting its local staff in Colombo. Officials at these agencies could not be reached for comment. “The government wants a hands-off policy from donors, and thus prefers countries like China which provides assistance without being too concerned [about other issues],” said Harim Peiris, a Colombo-based political analyst and a one-time spokesperson for former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. China is second to Japan as Sri Lanka’s largest lender of development assistance. “There is a lot of downsizing [of staff],” a veteran aid worker here who declined to be identified told IPS. “I don’t have numbers but I can tell you that any NGO involved in governance, post-conflict peace or post-war trauma related work will have a problem with the authorities,” who “not only track the work of such NGOs but also often visit their offices.” The most affected agencies are involved in governance, peace building, conflict-resolution and post-war trauma counselling. “Anything that is considered political or empowering people to establish their rights is anathema to the establishment,” the aid worker said, adding that he is afraid to get exposed, as any NGO worker critical of the establishment will be “in trouble.”

UK

As education cuts loom, drama teachers are first in line for chop.” By Richard Garner. Independent (UK). March 14, 2011. Art and drama teachers and those who teach vocational subjects are first in line to be sacked, as many headteachers are axeing subjects which do not qualify for the Coalition’s highly academic flagship “English Baccalaureate”. As many as a dozen schools a day are calling a 24-hour hotline to ask for advice on redundancy threats brought about by the squeeze on public spending. Richard Bird, the Association of School and College Leaders’ legal specialist, said: “We haven’t had to do this sort of thing since Kenneth Clarke was Chancellor of the Exchequer 15 years ago. Many headteachers have never had to face a redundancy situation.” Some schools have already been forced to issue protective redundancy notices to staff, it emerged at the association’s conference in Manchester at the weekend. In one case, a secondary school is axing 20 out of 100 staff. The redundancies are split equally between the staff. In a second school, 15 staff face the axe – almost all of them teachers. Brian Lightman, the association’s general secretary, said: “It is an unprecedented time for heads. In many schools, while there have been redundancies in the past, it hasn’t been on this kind of scale.” The threat posed by the new English Baccalaureate – under which schools are measured on the percentage of pupils getting five A* to C grades including maths, English, a language, a science and a humanity – is also likely to emerge this term. Schools are restructuring their timetables, axeing such subjects as vocational studies and arts and music which do not qualify for it.

Charity begins at home – food parcels for eastern Europe and Devon; As jobless total rises six-fold in Okehampton, the Trussell Trust food charity distributes handouts to more than 200 people.” By Steven Morris. Guardian (UK). March 14, 2011. A charity set up to send food parcels to needy people in eastern Europe is helping to feed residents of a Devon town where unemployment has shot up six-fold. The number of people receiving handouts of essential foods – such as cereal and tinned goods – from the Trussell Trust has risen from 20 people a week to more than 200 after jobs were lost at three major employers in Okehampton. Town councillor Kay Bickley, who helps run the food bank, said: “There has been a huge rise in people needing short-term help. The people of Okehampton have pride and want to work, but circumstances have led a lot of families into a devastating situation, which we are trying to help with. “It can take a while to sort out benefits you are entitled to, so in the meantime they are forced to live on handouts. It is a shock to find ourselves living in such a situation.” Across the UK, the Trussell Trust has helped 60,000 people in the last financial year, compared with 41,000 during the previous 12-month period. Most of its food banks are in cities but the trust is seeing an increase in the need for its aid in the countryside. In Okehampton, jobs have been shed at three of the town’s employers, including a dairy company and factories making chocolate and desserts. Unemployment has leapt from under 2% to almost 12%. Councillor Mike Davies, who also works at the food bank, said: “For many people in this town at the moment there is simply no money coming in. How are they going to pay the rent or the mortgage? How are they going to live? There is a mood of genuine fear in the town at the moment.” The charity relies on donations and distributes non-perishable goods. Each foodbox contains a minimum of three days’ nutritionally balanced food. Volunteers work from a headquarters at an outdoor shop in the town by Dartmoor and ferry goods to needy families in the area.

Parents’ takeover thwarts free school plan; Waverley School has been kept private by parents, who will pay higher fees.” Greg Hurst. Times of London. March 14, 2011. Parents are preparing to take over a struggling independent school after a backlash against plans to turn it into a free school. Waverley School, a small prep school in Berkshire, would have scrapped its fees and opened its doors to all local children, doubling its admissions, under proposals by the charity that owns it. But the paying parents staged a revolt and developed their own plan for a takeover, increasing fees, to keep it in the independent sector. CfBT Education Trust, which took over the school five years ago, has agreed to transfer it to the parents’ council next month. The charity will lease the buildings to the group rent-free for the first five years, write off its deficit and provide a six-figure “soft” loan for working capital. Fees, which vary by year group but average around £7,500 a year, will rise by about £900 under the parents’ business plan. A handful of families refused to back the plan but the overwhelming majority have done so and pledged to keep their children at the school. The move is a blow to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who has encouraged independent schools to become academies or free schools, the Government’s new model of independent schools funded by the taxpayer on a per-pupil basis.

University governors rally against elected principals.” By Lindsay McIntosh, Times of London. March 15, 2011. Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, is interfering with the independence of university principals and risks undermining the “survival and success” of the higher education sector in Scotland, university governors warn. In an unprecedented intervention, the chairmen of the courts of 13 universities have voiced their concerns about a suggestion, welcomed by Mr Russell, that lecturers should be allowed to hire and fire principals by election. They believe this would “politicise” the role and turn it into a “popularity contest”, which could be highly dangerous at a time when principals are dealing with the consequences of reduced budgets. Writing in The Times today, the chairmen, a group that includes such luminaries as Lord Penrose and Sir Moir Lockhead, say: “Governing bodies will have to ask principals to take tough actions in the long-term interests of universities and their staff and students. “Our ability to do so cannot be constrained by ‘politicising’ principals and making them subject to a ‘popularity contest’ when they are pressing ahead with the implementation of difficult but necessary changes.” The group is comprised of 13 members of the 19-strong Committee of Scottish Chairs. They lead university courts, which are responsible for overseeing the finances and governance of the institutions. Their intervention is timed to have maximum impact, coming on the eve of Mr Russell’s statement to the Scottish Parliament on the future of universities’ funding and structures. The chairmen point out that universities are already accountable to a long list of public bodies for their performance. “That is fair, given the importance of our role and the investment of public funds — but what we do not need are further proposals which inhibit governing bodies’ ability to secure their universities’ survival and success,” they write. Their letter is further evidence of tension between the higher education sector and the SNP Government as Scotland struggles to find the best way to fund its universities in the face of public spending cuts and increased tuition fees south of the Border.

Keeping outdoor swimming afloat; Social enterprises and local volunteers are helping Britain’s lidos fight off closure.” By Jonathan Knott. Guardian (UK). March 15, 2011. Britain’s outdoor pools and lidos in recent years have often seemed easy pickings for councils looking to cut costs. Historic lidos such as Saltdean near Brighton and Broomhill in Ipswich have not been able to rely on authority money for some time, and concerns have recently been raised about the future of the pools at Aldershot in Hampshire, Brynamman in Carmarthenshire and Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire. But rather than lose their pool, some supporters have formed trusts or social enterprises to take over their management. These organisations apply for grants and donations, but are also well-placed to exploit local knowledge to find innovative, site-specific funding solutions. As a result of vociferous campaigning, Bude has won a temporary reprieve. Cornwall county council agreed in February to fund the pool for a further year to enable the local community to take control. In Penzance, the Friends of the Jubilee Pool supporters group was instrumental in persuading the council to save and renovate the pool in the 1980s. But fears for its future have not yet been banished. Cornwall council wants to reduce the pool’s funding – by £40,000 in 2011 – and hand control to a community group by 2014. Supporters of Sandford Parks lido in Cheltenham formed a charitable trust that took over the pool in 1996. The pool’s grounds are used to put on films and plays alongside triathlons and other events. Part of the site is leased to a private gym, and the management works with volunteering charities and the Community Payback scheme to carry out maintenance. These community-run lidos, then, might be a working model for the government’s “big society”: by devolving control, authorities save on operating costs, while users have a say in how the facility is run. And the community as a whole is strengthened through the process of collaboration.

Fee-paying schools yield more than a quarter of medical and dentistry students; Just 7% of all pupils attend a private school, but go on to make up 28% of those studying medicine and dentistry at university, a study by the Independent Schools Council reveals.” By Jessica Shepherd. Guardian (UK). March 16, 2011. More than a quarter of all medicine and dentistry students went to a tiny proportion of the country’s fee-paying schools, official figures show. Just 7% of all pupils attend a private school, but these teenagers go on to make up 28.5% of those studying medicine and dentistry at university, an analysis of data by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) reveals. The figures, which originally come from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, also show that more than a quarter of students enrolled on European language degrees are from private schools. Architecture and engineering had equally disproportionate numbers of private school pupils. The ISC, which represents 1,260 schools, said the figures showed private schools had excellent teaching and gave their pupils superior advice on university applications. It denied it was because many of its schools were academically selective. The government is encouraging universities to give lower offers or extra consideration to applicants who have been to schools in which the majority of pupils do not go on to higher education. The ISC said this was the wrong move and that the government should tackle the disadvantage that the poorest pupils faced before they applied to university. Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, ISC’s head of research and intelligence, said university admissions were “broadly fair”. He said there were “real worries for the academic freedom of our universities given the significant pressure they appear to be under to amend their admissions for reasons of social engineering”. Lockhart said university applicants who had gone to private schools on a bursary or scholarship would be disadvantaged. He said: “Schools in the independent sector have the good fortune to be free of government interference and are thus able to choose the best curriculum for their pupils, concentrating on education rather than targets. Our schools are able to guide pupils towards the subjects that will benefit them, rather than the subjects that will help the school rise up a league table.” Meanwhile, many private schools would like to become not-for-profit organisations rather than charities, said Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, chair of the ISC. She said this would enable schools to escape regulatory burdens, but would require a change in legislation. As charities, private schools must show they are of benefit to the public. Some have said the Charity Commission, which checks they provide public benefit, has been unduly harsh on them.

Royal wedding: William and Kate ask for donations to charity; People wanting to buy wedding presents asked to give instead to a charitable fund.” By Stephen Bates. Guardian (UK). March 16, 2011. Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, have asked people wishing to give them wedding presents to donate instead to a fund for 26 charities, many supporting disadvantaged inner-city children. A statement issued by Clarence House said: “Having been touched by the goodwill shown them since the announcement of their engagement, Prince William and Miss Middleton have asked that anyone who might wish to give them a wedding gift consider giving instead to a charitable fund. “Many of the charities are little known, without existing royal patronage, and undertake excellent work within specific communities. They are charities that have a particular resonance with Prince William and Miss Middleton and reflect issues in which the couple have been particularly interested in their lives to date.” The announcement may stop some of the lavish gifts bestowed on Prince Charles and Princess Diana at their wedding in 1981, such as a jewel-encrusted dhow from the Emir of Bahrain which ended up being sold by a royal servant to a West End jeweller, and the charities concerned expressed delight at the couple’s gesture. Among the charities are Peace Players, which promotes cross-community cohesion by teaching children basketball in Northern Ireland; Oily Cart, a children’s theatre group working specially with disabled groups; Into University, which encourages teenagers to apply for higher education; Beat Bullying; Combat Stress and Cruse Bereavement Care for the children of military casualties. Charities working in Australia, New Zealand and Canada will also benefit. The charities are grouped depending on their work and donations can be earmarked for particular groups: changing lives through arts and sport; children fulfilling their potential; help and care at home; support for service personnel and their families; and conservation for future generations.
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Royal pair choose youth offender and bullies charities for Wedding List gift fund; William and Kate’s list has a strong focus on youth charities, a sector that struggles to raise donations.” Times of London/Reuters. March 16, 2011.
Charity Earthwatch gets royal treatment.” By Mark Shanahan and Meredith Goldstein. Boston Globe. March 17, 2011. [For story, go to Environment].

Scouts promise to do their best in the face of big rent rises.” By Jill Sherman. Times of London. March 17, 2011. Scout clubs could be forced to close after large rises in ground rents set by councils, scout chiefs have warned. In many cases rents have risen from less than a £100 a year to more than £10,000 as local authorities try to raise income. This morning Bear Grylls, the Chief Scout, will launch a campaign to restrain charges, claiming that the “extortionate” rents could threaten the movement and its voluntary work. A survey by the Scout Association suggests that at least 2,000 groups are vulnerable to big rent increases, with many warning that they will have to close, increase subscription fees or cut back on outdoor activities. The research shows that Banstead district scout group had been asked to raise its ground rent for its buildings from £135 per annum to £10,000 by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. The 23rd Camberwell group faces a £7,000 bill from Southwark Council next month, having previously had the use of a school room rent free. Barwick-in-Elmet Scout Group, in Wetherby district, West Yorkshire, has used its local school without charge for more than 25 years but faces a £5,000 annual bill. “These crippling rises jeopardise the future of scouting and the enormous amount of voluntary work we provide,” Mr Grylls said. Writing in The Times today he adds: “Scouting provides a second family for so many young people. And yet there is a real danger they [groups] will have to close because there is simply no way to pay.” A third of the 7,420 scout groups in the Britain pay ground rent to landlords and more than a quarter of these have been told to expect increases.The “Don’t raise our rents” campaign will call on councils to set fair and affordable rents for scout groups. From today all scout groups affected and the rents raised by councils will be posted on the website. Visitors to the site can sign a petition.

Universities to get government help with budget cuts.” By Joanna Sugden. Times of London. March 17, 2011. Two out of five universities in England will receive cash handouts from the Government to help them to deal with cuts to their budgets this year. The money is meant to lessen the impact of a 12.6 per cent reduction in their annual grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) announced today. Institutions find out by how much their individual budgets have been slashed for the coming academic year. All but one face real-terms reductions on their share of the £6.507 billion higher education grant, which has shrunk from £7.447 billion in 2010-11. Those vice-chancellors facing cuts of more than 3.9 per cent in cash terms to teaching and research funding have been awarded one-off payments to enable them to cope financially. Almost twice as many universities require some of the extra £30 million “moderation fund” next academic year compared with 2010-11. Officials at Hefce said that the money would “smooth” the transition to a more meagre income for higher education. Universities known to be struggling financially have received the greatest assistance. Cumbria will receive almost £1 million after a 4.4 per cent cut to its budget. Bedfordshire, Bradford, Brunel and the University of East London will all get more than £500,000 to help them to deal with grant reductions of between 4.3 and 5.1 per cent. All but five of 130 English universities will see a cash terms reduction in their grant for the academic year 2011-12 compared with the previous year.
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Treasury could face £1bn bill if universities raise fees to £9,000.Times of London. March 16 2011.
Just one university will escape funding cuts.” Independent (UK). March 17, 2011.

Social care faces ‘£1bn funding gap by 2015′; King’s Fund report says cuts in government grants to councils will lead to huge real-terms cut in social care spending.” By David Brindle. Guardian (UK). March 17, 2011. Social care faces a funding gap of at least £1bn within four years that will result in more emergency hospital admissions, delayed discharges and longer waiting times, the King’s Fund thinktank has warned. Ministers should take an overview of NHS and social care spending together and consider moving towards a single, shared cash settlement for both, a report by the thinktank suggests. Although the government has planned for extra funding for social care in England, including £1bn from NHS budgets, the King’s Fund says the 27% cut in overall government grants to councils by 2015 is likely to lead to a real-terms cut of 7%, or £1.2bn, in social care spending. If councils do not protect social care at all from the effect of the grants reduction, it will suffer a cut of 14%, or £2.2bn. The thinktank says one effect of such spending curbs would be less support for older people in care homes. Southern Cross, the biggest residential care provider, warned this week that it was already in crisis and contemplating shutting some of its homes because of a fall-off in council referrals. The NHS would inevitably suffer knock-on effects, the King’s Fund adds, undermining the government’s rationale for ringfencing health service budgets. Unlike NHS spending, which is set centrally, social care expenditure in England depends on the decisions of 152 councils. This means, according to the report, that it is dictated more “by history and incremental change rather than current and future needs”.

Christians will build the ‘big society’ – if they are allowed; Worshippers do more voluntary work than non-believers. Yet the government is doing little to support them in their faith.” By John Hayward. Guardian (UK). March 17, 2011. The success of the “big society” initiative will not just require the help of faith organisations, it will need actively to promote them. So concludes a fresh report, The Big Society in Context: A means to what end? published by the Christian social reform charity Jubilee Centre. Recent research by Evangelical Alliance and Christian Research showed that 81% of evangelical Christians do some kind of voluntary work at least once a month. This compares with a much lower figure of 26% for the population at large. The level of community engagement is influenced not only by faith, but by how seriously faith is taken. So, their research also showed that those who consider their faith to be the most important thing in their life undertake an average of two hours’ volunteering each week, compared with an average of one hour 15 minutes by those who do not consider their faith to be the most important thing in their life. Eighty-six per cent of evangelicals voted in the last general election, compared with 65% in the population at large. Motivated by a love of neighbour, Christians will be keen to take any new opportunities that arise to play a greater role in their communities as a result of the big society – not just volunteering, but also starting new social enterprises and bringing biblical principles and social transformation agendas to business. However, to quote the Jubilee Centre report, there is a continuing question “of how much people will want to engage with big society initiatives if there is no direct and obvious benefit to themselves”. Even the government admits that its big society ambitions are highly unlikely to succeed without the help of faith groups – not least because more people do unpaid work for church groups than any other organisation. For example, Lady Warsi has called for “a new beginning for relations between society, faith and the state”, while the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has acknowledged that, in realising its ambitions for a big society, central government needs to “build on the huge amount of experience faith groups have in getting out into the community”, and promised to send “an important signal that we value the role of religion and faith in public life”, for “the days of the state trying to suppress Christianity and other faiths are over”.

Private schools may give up ‘over-rated’ charitable status; David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said that conditions had changed.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. March 18, 2011. Independent schools are exploring how to avoid regulatory requirements by giving up their charitable status. Dozens of schools are interested in such a move, which would involve converting into a not-for-profit trust and an “asset lock” on buildings, grounds and investments to prevent their sale for commercial gain. Smaller preparatory schools previously owned by a proprietor are taking the lead among independent schools in pressing for a new legal status. Two prep schools — Highfield Priory in Fulwood, Lancashire, and St Anselm’s in Bakewell, Derbyshire — were deemed by the Charity Commission to have failed a “public benefit test” two years ago and told to introduce or increase bursaries for children from poorer families to keep their charitable status. But pressure from some independent schools for an alternative not-for-profit model predates the decision, which will be subject to a judicial review in May. The move, which would probably require legislation, would mean schools giving up the tax advantages of charitable status, although some governors say its importance is overstated. One former headmaster said that, with a turnover of £10 million, his net tax saving was £30,000. The move is sensitive within the independent sector, which is conscious that such schools could appear to be abandoning charitable obligations. But supporters say that schools would continue with charitable work without having their motives questioned. The chief financial benefit of charitable status is a reduction in business rates, which independent schools pay at 20 per cent and which some local authorities waive. As charities, independent schools can also use gift aid to reclaim tax on donations from former pupils and benefactors, which can be significant. They are exempt from tax on trading surpluses, but these tend to be relatively small. David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, which represents heads of 600 prep schools, said: “If it was an easy route I think a substantial number would jump.”

Westminster council’s crackdown on soup runs for homeless sparks anger;
Campaigners condemn proposed law by Conservative-controlled authority to fine people who distribute food to homeless
.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian (UK). March 18, 2011. Campaigners have launched an attack on plans by Conservative-controlled Westminster council to outlaw charity-led “soup runs” for rough sleepers, as fresh evidence emerges that spending cuts will have a savage impact on services around the UK aimed at keeping homeless people off the streets. Westminster’s proposed bylaw will enable authorities to fine people in and around the Westminster Cathedral piazza if they “lie down or sleep in any public place”, “deposit bedding” or distribute free food and drink. Campaigners, who have called it an attempt to criminalise homelessness, are to stage a protest against the ban outside the cathedralon Sunday. Alison Gelder, director of Housing Justice, a charity that represents faith-based homelessness projects, said the bylaw was an attack on civil and religious freedoms, made a mockery of government attempts to encourage the “big society”, and would do nothing to solve the growing problem of street homelessness. Figures to be published next week suggest that government spending cuts will lead to the closure of around one in six of England’s 44,000 homeless hostel beds from April. According to Homeless Link, which represents 480 homeless charities, the authorities where most hostel bed spaces have been earmarked for closure are Rochdale, Kingston upon Hull, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, and Nottinghamshire and Nottingham city. Homeless Link says a survey reveals that its members expect a 25% average cut in local authority funding, with over a quarter saying they will have to reduce the number of homeless clients they work with. Westminster council says soup runs provide a magnet for homeless people and encourage crime, begging and antisocial behaviour. It tried to ban soup runs in 2007. Daniel Astaire, Westminster council’s cabinet member for society, families and adult services, said he accepted the ban was “sensitive” but said the council had the same aim as the protesters: to get homeless people off the streets and into services that would help them turn their lives around. “Those who give up their time to help rough sleepers should be applauded, but we believe they can make a far better impact if they look for other ways to help the homeless and put their energy to good use, without delivering food on the streets.”

Chris Moyles radio marathon raises £2.4m for Comic Relief; Radio 1 colleague Fearne Cotton’s promise to broadcast in swimsuit if target was reached saw late surge in donations.” By Peter Walker. Guardian (UK). March 18, 2011. For 23 years now Britons have been lying in baths of baked beans, shaving their heads and donning amusing outfits, all to raise cash for Comic Relief. But now they know the formula to hoover up £2.4m for the charity in a matter of hours: two dishevelled, baggy-eyed men and a blond woman in a tight swimsuit. The hefty sum was raised in the runup to Friday evening’s annual BBC1 Red Nose Day celeb-athon by the DJ Chris Moyles, with some important last-minute help from his Radio 1 colleague Fearne Cotton. Moyles, along with longstanding sidekick Dave Vitty, more popularly known as “Comedy Dave”, had pledged to collect money by staying on air for a continuous, world record-breaking 50 hours, beginning on Wednesday morning. The steady stream of donations became a flood after Cotton announced that she would broadcast part of her regular mid-morning show – which features a live webcam feed – in a swimming costume if the £2m mark was reached. And reached it was, while the Radio 1 website crashed under the weight of would-be gawpers. Moyles, who lasted 52 hours, later gave special thanks to “that last rush of dirty old men” in helping to beat the target as he was presented with a certificate marking the record. “The end result of this silly, silly show was Fearne Cotton in a swimsuit. Oh and Comic Relief got some money,” Moyles added. The long-established charity event raised more than £82m for charities in the UK and Africa last year. Attempting to beat the 2010 target, Friday’s BBC1 show featured special celebrity-studded editions of Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, Outnumbered and MasterChef. Musical interludes included Take That along with a one-off tribute act, Fake That, comprising James Corden, John Bishop, David Walliams, Catherine Tate and Alan Carr.

Oxford University moves to defy Nick Clegg over state school admissions; Deputy prime minister’s call to lower entry requirements for disadvantaged pupils rejected as ‘nonsense’ by academics.” By Daniel Boffey. The Observer/Guardian. March 20, 2011. The government is on a collision course with some of Oxford University’s most prominent dons over demands that they “dramatically increase” the intake of disadvantaged pupils from the state sector. The Observer has learned of growing resistance to the government’s plans within the university’s academic community, elements of which are outraged that the institution has been asked to accept a wider range of students in return for charging the maximum tuition fees of £9,000. One leading scholar described an intervention by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, in which he said universities planning to charge the top level fees would have to “prove” their ability to broaden their intake, as “bollocks”. A transcript of a meeting by the university’s sovereign body, the Oxford congregation, obtained by the Observer, revealed that the university’s head of admissions told colleagues the institution would not be a victim of “political expediency”. The backlash against the government’s vision for the future of Britain’s premier universities threatens to become an embarrassment for the Liberal Democrat leader, who has justified the level of tuition fees by promising a more focused attempt to level out the ratio of independent to state-sector pupils. Clegg has railed against British universities as vehicles of social segregation and demanded that they throw open their doors to the less privileged by lowering their entrance requirements for the less well off. In comments that inflamed the Oxford congregation, he insisted: “They can’t charge £9,000 unless given permission. They’re only going to be given permission if they prove they can dramatically increase the numbers from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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