WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Economists put $129bn tag on cut to research.” By Julia Medew. Sydney Morning Heraldhttp://www.smh.com.au/national/economists-put-129bn-tag-on-cut-to-research-20110418-1dlp5.html
April 19, 2011. Australia would stand to lose $129 billion and more than 1600 valuable researchers over the next eight years if the Gillard government cuts $400 million from medical research in next month’s budget, health economists say. A group of experts led by Professor Nicholas Graves, of Queensland University of Technology, said the $129 billion loss would come from increased spending on health as a result of less research into how to keep medical costs down between now and 2020. The economists said good health research reduced spending because it told policymakers what services to invest in for savings and why. Examples included research into the efficacy of cancer screening programs and ways of reducing hospital use. Without such research, Australia could expect to see healthcare spending grow by about 1 per cent on top of its annual average growth of 5.4 per cent each year. ”Since 1998, spending on Australian health services has grown each year by an average of 5.4 per cent. Expenditures of $107 billion in 2008-09 will rise to $226 billion in 2020 if this rate of growth remains steady,” the economists said. ”If spending increased 1 per cent more than 5.4 per cent due to poor health services decision making, then gross expenditures by 2020 will be $129 billion higher than $226 billion. ”There could also be worse health outcomes among the population.” Moreover, the group, from seven different Australian universities, said that if the $400 million savings were found in job cuts, Australia could expect to lose 1644 experienced postdoctoral researchers on salaries of about $81,000 a year. Given Australia’s economy was growing, they said any slight improvement in national debt as a result of the rumoured $400 million cuts to the National Health and Medical Research Council would not be worth it.

Opera Australia looks for a second act as audiences drop.” By Joyce Morgan. Sydney Morning Herald. April 21, 2011. Opera Australia’s audiences fell by 16 per cent last year, leaving the company $500,000 in the red and rethinking its future. The global financial crisis, a decline in tourists – particularly in Sydney – and an unwillingness by patrons to pay the high cost of tickets has seen the company’s mainstage box office drop 8 per cent from $32.9 million in 2009 to $30.3 million last year and attendances shrink from 286,000 to 240,000. It is the second year running the company has returned a deficit. It ended 2009 with a $900,000 red bottom line. The company’s 2010 program included the world premiere of Bliss and a controversial new production of Tosca. The results have left the nation’s flagship arts company signalling a change in direction. In a statement in its annual report, the chief executive, Adrian Collette, acknowledged that ”two operation deficits in succession make a compelling argument for change”. The company needed to broaden and deepen its appeal and could not simply market its way to a larger audience.

Religions and their followers find a safe haven.” Sydney Morning Herald. April 22, 2011. Overview of the Mandaeans, the Mar Thoma, the Ahmadiyya, and the Buddhists in Australia.

New breed of entrepreneurs turn profits to social ends.” By Sarah Whyte. Sydney Morning Herald. April 24, 2011. Business schools took a long hard look at themselves after the global financial crisis. Were they responsible for churning out ready-made ”millionaires by 30” who caused the mess? If one of the new subjects they are offering is anything to go by, then the answer is yes. Social entrepreneurship – the term used for conventional business models that deliver social or environmental returns – has been added to business schools across the US, Britain and, now, Australia. Cheryl Kernot, a former politician turned associate professor at the centre for social change at the University of NSW, is at the forefront of social entrepreneurship in Australia. ”Young people have been looking at how to harness a business with a social purpose, not just to generate their own wealth,” she said. ”[This is] a call to action to address the systemic failures of our traditional institutions.” There will always be a place for charity, she says, but social entrepreneurs use business principles to make profit and reinvest it in a social purpose. The School of Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) was established in Britain in 1997. Benny Callaghan, the Australian chief executive of its schools in Sydney and Melbourne, said he was witnessing a shift among the young generation towards giving back to the community.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Bishop in hiding as anger grows over abuse claims.” By David Charter. Times of London. April 19, 2011. The disgraced former Bishop of Bruges has gone missing from a French silent order after a furore surrounding a television interview in which he admitted child abuse. Roger Vangheluwe, 74, quit as Bishop of Bruges last year after confessing to paedophile activity with a young nephew many years ago. He had been ordered by the Vatican to leave Belgium and undergo “spiritual and psychological” treatment. But the case resurfaced after Mr Vangheluwe gave an interview with a Belgian TV station admitting to molesting another nephew but insisting that he did not consider himself a paedophile or a threat to children. His attempts to explain himself have plunged the Belgian Catholic Church back into turmoil and reawakened a child abuse scandal which saw an official investigation unearth nearly 500 cases of abuse by priests since the 1950s, including 13 victims who committed suicide. Mr Vangheluwe escaped prosecution because the alleged crimes took place beyond Belgium’s statute of limitations. He said that nothing untoward had happened in the past 25 years. But Belgians are now demanding to know why he was protected by his confessor and Yves Leterme, the Prime Minister, has called on the Vatican to administer a more effective punishment.

Judge orders Vatican to show files in abuse case.” By Nigel Duara. San Jose Mercury-News/Associated Press. April 22, 2011.

CAMBODIA

Govt Plans to Tighten Noose Around Civil Society.” By Irwin Loy. Interpress Service. April 23, 2011. A proposed law governing NGOs in Cambodia will impose severe restrictions on civil society groups and tighten control over public discourse, critics in this South-east Asian country say. International analysts and local groups have widely condemned Cambodia’s draft Law on associations and non-governmental organisations, arguing the proposed rules foist unnecessary restrictions on freedom of expression. Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness have all called the law deeply flawed. At a donor conference in Phnom Penh this week, a U.S. official took the unusual step of publicly linking government restrictions on civil society to valuable aid funds from one of the country’s largest donors. “In these times of fiscal constraint, justifying increased assistance to Cambodia will become very difficult in the face of shrinking space for civil society to function,” Flynn Fuller, the Cambodia mission director of the American development arm, USAID, said at a meeting between donors and government. That summit was a private affair, but a copy of his speech was distributed to reporters by the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh. Fuller warned that “an excessively restrictive” law could hurt the effectiveness of U.S. aid money. “USAID remains concerned about the necessity of the draft NGO law and the related implications for civil society organisations to operate freely in Cambodia…we strongly urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider the necessity of the draft NGO law, and if so, to adopt a law consistent with a commitment to expand, rather than restrict, the freedom of civil society organisations to operate.” Critics say the proposed law will give the government too much arbitrary control over who can form an NGO. A briefing paper released this month by the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) noted that the draft law would make it mandatory for NGOs to register and would thus ban unregistered groups

CHINA

Illicit Church, Evicted, Tries to Buck Beijing.” By Andrew Jacobs. New York Times. April 17, 2011. It has all the trappings one would expect from the capital’s most well-heeled and prestigious Christian congregation: a Sunday school for children, nature hikes for singles and clothing drives for the needy. Last year, the church, called Shouwang, or Lighthouse, collected $4 million from its 1,000 members to buy its own house of worship. But Shouwang, according to China’s officially atheist Communist Party leadership, is technically illegal. It is a so-called house church, which in recent years had come to symbolize the government’s wary tolerance for big-city congregations outside the constellation of state-controlled churches. The church has been a release valve for an educated elite seeking a nonpolitical refuge for its faith. That is, until now. Evicted yet again from its meeting place by the authorities, Shouwang announced this month that its congregants would worship outside rather than disband or go back underground. Its demands were straightforward but bold: allow the church to take possession of the space it had legally purchased. Officials responded with a clenched fist. On Sunday, for the second week in a row, the police rounded up scores of parishioners who tried to pray outdoors at a public plaza. Most of the church’s leadership is now in custody or under house arrest. Its Web site has been blocked. “We are not antigovernment, but we cannot give up our church family and our faith,” Wei Na, 30, the church choir director, said last week just before more than 160 congregants were corralled onto buses and detained. “Satan is using the government to destroy us, and we can’t let that happen.” The move against Shouwang, as well as other house churches, coincides with the most expansive assault on dissent in China in years, one that has led to the arrests of high-profile critics like the artist Ai Weiwei, but also legions of little-known bloggers, rights lawyers and democracy advocates who have disappeared into the country’s opaque legal system. The crackdown, now in its second month, was prompted by government fears that the Arab revolts against autocracy could spread to China and undermine the Communist Party’s six-decade hold on power.
Related stories:
Beijing detains illegal church members on Easter.” San Francisco Chronicle/ Associated Press. April 24, 2011.
Chinese police detain dozens at site of banned Easter service; Christians trying to gather at site of banned Shouwang church service in Beijing are led away by police.” Guardian/Reuters. April 24, 2011.
China detains Protestant Shouwang devotees.” BBC News. April 24, 2011.

“China police blockading Tibetan monastery, say exiles
“2,500 monks under house arrest at Kirti Buddhist monastery in Sichuan province, according to reports relayed from scene.”
By Tania Branigan. Guardian (UK). April 18, 2011. Exiled Tibetans in Nepal stage hunger strike over Kirti monastery blockade. Chinese state media have confirmed reports of clashes between monks and police at a Tibetan monastery in Sichuan province, but deny it has been blockaded. The Global Times said “Chinese police intervened to control lamas that had stirred up trouble” at Kirti monastery in Aba county, western China. Tibetan exiles said armed police surrounded the complex last Tuesday and refused to allow monks to enter or leave. The Dalai Lama warned late last week that the situation could turn “explosive”. An article released by the Xinhua state news agency on its news wire this weekend – but not, apparently, on its website – said believers and vehicles were freely entering and monks could be seen outside. The report, headlined “Life normal in Tibetan Buddhist monastery in south-west China”, quoted a member of Kirti’s management saying it had “long ago formed a joint patrol team [with police] to prevent unspecified people from entering”. He added that “there couldn’t be any beatings” as staff at the entrance were very friendly. The International Campaign for Tibet said hundreds of residents gathered outside Kirti last Tuesday fearing authorities would forcibly remove monks for a “patriotic education” campaign after the self-immolation of a young lama. Citing exile sources, it alleged that security forces beat protesters and unleashed dogs on the crowd as they forced their way through to the monastery, surrounding it and preventing up to 2,500 monks from leaving. The Guardian has been unable to verify the claims independently. Exiles claimed that as of Sunday the complex had been blockaded and up to 800 officials had been carrying out the re-education campaign there. The religious affairs bureau in Aba, known to Tibetans as Ngaba, did not respond to queries. Last year the region’s authorities issued a notice pledging to “promote patriotic education in monasteries [and] reinforce management of religious affairs in accordance with the law”.
Related story:
Two die in clash with Chinese police at Tibetan monastery, activists say; Confrontation at Kirti monastery reportedly occurred during raid in which police took away 300 monks.” Guardian (UK). April 23, 2011.
Chinese police ‘raid Tibetan monastery’.” BBC News. April 23, 2011.

China Curbs Fancy Tombs That Irk Poor.” By Sharon LaFraniere. New York Times. April 22, 2011. Ever since Deng Xiaoping signaled in 1978 that it was fine to get rich, much of China has seemed hell-bent on that goal. But some local governments would like those who succeed not to lord it over others, at least when it comes to paying final respects. As of last month, in the cemeteries of this hilly megalopolis in south central China, modest burial sites are in. Fancy tombs are out. And in some places, so are fancy funerals. Plots for ashes are limited to 1.5 square meters, about 4 feet by 4 feet. Tombstones are supposed to be no higher than 100 centimeters, or 39 inches, although it is not clear that limit will be enforced. Sellers of oversize plots have been warned of severe fines, as much as 300 times the plot’s price. “Ordinary people who walk by and see these lavish tombs might not be able to keep their emotions in balance,” said Zheng Wenzhong, as he visited the relatively modest resting place of a relative at The Temple of the Lighted Lamp cemetery. That is apparently exactly what many officials fear. After a quarter of a century in which the gap between rich and poor has steadily widened, the wretched excesses of the affluent are increasingly a Chinese government concern. China’s income inequality, as measured by a standard called the Gini coefficient, is now on a par with some Latin American and African countries, according to the World Bank. Justin Yifu Lin, the bank’s chief economist, last year identified the growing disparity as one of China’s biggest economic problems. Li Shi, an economics professor at Beijing Normal University, said that in 1988 the average income of the top 10 percent of Chinese was about 12 times that of the bottom 10 percent. By 2007, he said, those at the top earned 23 times more. China’s long-term solutions to the divide include more market reforms, stronger social security programs, lower taxes on low-income families and tighter controls on illicit income. But while waiting for Beijing for all that, some local officials are looking for ways to gloss over the gap.

INDIA

PIL challenges inclusion of civil society members in Lokpal Bill joint commitee.” Times of India. April 18, 2011. A group of advocates on Monday moved the Supreme Court challenging the inclusion of five civil society members in a committee to draft the Lokpal Bill. Advocate M L Sharma and others have moved the court contending that inclusion of five civil society members in the committee, which also has five ministers, is constitutionally flawed as a parliamentary committee must comprise only members of parliament and no one else. It also assailed the inclusion of the father-son duo– Shanti and Prashant Bhushan.

Eviction notices to religious bodies.” By Jatin Takkar. Times of India. April 23, 2011. Local devout as well as managements of temples here are up in arms against the district administration for having served eviction notices to eight temples believed to be of ancient origin. The district administration earlier has given 10 days notice to managements of these temples to vacate the premises at their own. The deputy commissioner C Rajnikanthan reasons the court orders for serving the eviction notices. The managements have been asked to vacate the buildings which are other then original structures of the temples. According to official sources those additional structures have been illegally raised by the management by encroaching upon the government as well as private land. Some of the temple managements asserted that they were being harassed by the authorities for the reasons best known to officers in the district administration as well as the locals who have some vested interests. Temples, whose managements have been served the notices include Prachin Mahakaleshwar temple, Prachin Nabhikamal Mandir and Shivshakti Temple in Kurukshetra; Bhagwan Pashuram Mandir and Gita Mandir in Shahbad; Guru Ravidas Mandir and Peer Mazar in Ladwa.

Natives remember Satya Sai Baba for philanthropy.” No by-line. Times of India. April 24, 2011. The demise of Satya Sai Baba came as a deep shock for those are engaged in various social programmes launched by the godman through his trust in Andhra Pradesh. Prominent among the programmes started by the Sathya Sai Central Trust is Sri Satya Village Integrated Programme (SSVIP) under which 212 villages in East Godavari district were provided drinking water in a phased manner. Another programme, the Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project (SSSDWP), launched on January 20, 2008, covers 25 tribal-dominated villages in East and West Godavari districts, an official of the project said today. “We are not in a position to accept the news of his (Satya Sai Baba) demise. We expected some miracle to happen and he will return and give darshan to his devotees,” he said. Following his deep attachment with this area, the spiritual leader had visited East Godavari for the maximum number of times than any other place, the official said, adding that members who are carrying out these social welfare programmes and the beneficiaries of these schemes were deeply affected by Sai Baba’s death on Sunday. Under SSSDWSP, safe drinking water is supplied to about 452 upland and tribal habitations which traditionally are dependent upon drying bore wells and natural streams for water, he said.

JAPAN

Civil Society Gaining Ground Following Quake.” By Suvendrini Kakuchi. Interpress Service. April 22, 2011. Civil society organisations in Japan have traditionally been on the sidelines in influencing mainstream policy, but the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of Mar. 11 is becoming a catalyst for important change. “Thousands of people are joining our protests against nuclear power these past few weeks after the disaster. That is a huge change from the past when our activism was struggling for public attention,” said Sawako Sawaii, spokes- person for the Citizen’s Nuclear Information Network (CNIC), a veteran non- government organisation that has long campaigned against nuclear power. The rising popularity of CNIC is now the driving force behind regular demonstrations across the nation against Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture. “I guess it takes tragedy for the public to wake-up to the crucial role that is played by civil society,” said Professor Akiko Nakajima, an expert on post disaster construction at Wayo Women’s University. “With confidence in the government eroding fast after the nuclear accident, people are no longer happy with officials at the helm.” Nakajima explains that civil society progress in Japan has been up against a long conservative history that placed priority on social harmony above individual interests – creating a society based on tightly knit rules that forced conformity to official regulations. But, with Japan now struggling to stop radiation contamination from nuclear reactors that officials had promised were fool-proof, the fragility of the old system as been exposed, Nakajima says.

UK

Charities squandered money donated to cure Alzheimer’s.” By Mary Turner. Times of London. April 18, 2011. Rosemary Stevens said that watching her aunt’s lingering death from Alzheimer’s spurred her to become involved in charities seeking a cure for the disease. Tens of thousands of people responded generously to unsolicited letters from the charities seeking donations. But after a decade in which they raised more than £2 million it has emerged that only a fraction of this has gone to good causes. Ms Stevens, an accountant, has blamed the failure of the most recent venture on the Charity Commission’s decision to freeze its bank accounts amid concerns about how it was run. A damning report by the Charity Commission into the Alzheimer’s UK Research Education Care revealed Ms Stevens’s involvement in similar organisations and their links to businesses run by Frank Hill, also an accountant. The Commission’s report concluded: “The charity had become no more than a fundraising vehicle.” It criticised the charity’s trustees for having no control over its finances and little input in running the organisation. “The acting CEO was given a free hand to manage and administer the charity as she saw fit,” it added. “The charity sought donations from the public but had no coherent plan for using them for charitable purposes.” Ms Stevens has defended her involvement: “I have nothing to hide. I have personally done nothing wrong, other than to be naive.”

Church to act against excessive company bonuses.” By Alex Ralph. Times of London. April 16, 2011. The Church Commissioners, who manage the Church of England’s £5.3 billion investment and property portfolio, have said that they will vote against excessive pay in companies in which they hold a stake. A spokesman told the Financial Times that they would attempt to block any pay scheme in which managers received bonuses more than four times their annual salary. “The Church exists to spread the Gospel and the Gospel is about justice for everyone. That is why our ethical investment committee believes that people should be paid what they are worth, but not more than that. “[The Church’s] general approach is that it is sufficient for bonus schemes … to allow for performance awards of up to three times salary.” The Church refused to detail which companies’ pay it would seek to limit.

Urgent help is needed to save thousands of crumbling churches; Many churches have fallen into disrepair and ruin.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. April 16 2011. The most comprehensive survey of Britain’s churches ever carried out has shown a “critical” number in desperate need of financial help. Nearly 4,000 of the nation’s 47,000 churches — 8 per cent — are in poor or very poor condition, needing an average of £80,000 spending each for repairs and restoration. The survey, to be published on Monday, has found that 1.6 million people take part in voluntary activities involving the Church, averaging out at 33 per church. The biggest area was community activities, followed by faith activities and then administration. The churches make up the bedrock on which the Government can hope to build its dream of a Big Society, the survey shows. The 47,000 churches, with their army of volunteers, compare with only 12,000 post offices and 10,000 English village halls. The National Churches Trust has found that church buildings play a key role in community activity, with eight out of ten used for other things besides worship. Those getting the best grant support, however, are usually the listed churches, which tend to be in remote rural areas and have fewer facilities. It is often the unlisted churches, which make up 60 per cent of the total, that are more modern and in urban areas allowing them to adapt more easily as cafés and community centres. More than half the churches in the survey, which covered more than 9,000 of the 47,000 churches, benefited from the Government’s listed places of worship grant scheme, introduced in 2001, which allows VAT to be reclaimed on some repairs. Nearly £15 million was reclaimed under the scheme in the past year. But the survey notes that listed buildings are “generally less well equipped.” Nearly a third of the 47,000 churches have no lavatories. Buildings without adequate heating, toilet or kitchen facilities are less likely to contribute to community activites, even though, when they are listed, they stand to benefit more from grant aid. Money for repairs comes from members of the parish, “friends” groups and events such as the annual “Ride and Stride” sponsored walks and cycle rides organised by country churches trusts with the support of the National Churches Trust.
Related story:
Why bishops vote on matters of state.” Times of London. April 15 2011.

Will the last person to leave the Church of England please turn out the lights; The Church of England is an institution in decline, with fewer worshippers than ever and dissent in its ranks. Could salvation come in the form of severing its ties with the State?” By Adrian Hamilton. Independent (UK). April 18, 2011. As the faithful look forward to Easter and the Archbishop of Canterbury prepares to officiate at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it may seem inappropriate to be discussing the future of his Church. But this Easter week, I can’t help feeling – more than ever – that the Church of England will not survive my children’s lifetime and quite possibly not even my own. It’s not the archaism of state occasions that makes me doubt the relevance of the CofE, nor the sight this Lent of a dozen or more clergy crossing the floor to join the Roman Catholics that has made me despair of its future. Nor is it the statistics showing an ever-diminishing number of English attending their services, although these are bad enough. It’s not even the spectacle of the Church wrapping itself in knots around the issues of ordaining women and gay bishops. These are certainly signals of an institution in decline; a community turning in on itself as its relevance diminishes. But the Church has been here before and revived. If that were all, one might envision – some of its members do – a leadership coming in to revive its fortunes, re-energise its priests and refresh its doctrines, as happened in Victorian times when Darwinian science and atheism threatened to overwhelm it. No, the real problem of the Church of England is the factor which no-one seems ready to discuss in public – its role as the established church of the country. For humanists and atheists, this is an outrage; a remnant of a political past that should be dispensed with as soon as possible.

Miliband warns on university places.” No by-line. Independent (UK). April 19, 2011. Tens of thousands of university places could be cut as the Government tries to make up a funding gap in its tuition fees policy, Labour leader Ed Miliband claimed today. He warned that the coalition’s controversial higher education funding reforms were “unravelling” as more universities than expected planned to charge £9,000 a year. Soaring fees meant that the new system may cost the taxpayer an extra £450 million a year in student loans – putting 36,000 university places at risk, Mr Miliband said. “This unfair and shambolic tuition fees policy is now unravelling,” he said. “It will cost taxpayers more, it will cost students more and it may cost thousands of young people their university places.” Analysis by Labour showed that 70% of universities which have so far declared their fees under the new regime were planning to charge the maximum £9,000. That included all of the elite Russell Group universities that have announced their plans – 13 out of 17. Drawing on House of Commons Library figures, Labour said average fees of £8,500 could create a funding shortfall of up to £450 million in 2014/15. At a press conference at Labour’s Victoria Street headquarters this morning, Mr Miliband accused Prime Minister David Cameron of breaking a promise that £9,000 fees would be an exception.
Related story:
Poor teenagers priced out as universities choose to charge maximum fees; Plans to increase university tuition fees have sparked mass protests.” Times of London. April 19, 2011.
Tuition fees will deter state school students, admits Cambridge; Documents submitted to Office for Fair Access are blow to government expectations on increased access.” Guardian (UK). April 23, 2011.

Disabled charity that helped Cameron’s son loses out in cuts.” By Joe Dyke. Independent (UK). April 19, 2011. David Cameron’s commitment to protecting disabled services in the UK has been criticised after a charity of which he is a patron had its funding cut by £250,000. The Kids charity helped the Prime Minister look after his son but has had its support reduced as a result of local government funding cuts. Last night, Mr Cameron faced further criticism after it emerged that an £800m grant for disabled services announced in December could be spent on other projects. Kids offers one-to-one care facilities to about 7,000 disabled children across the UK and helped care for David Cameron’s son, Ivan, who was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, until he died in 2009. Parents reliant on the charity criticised the Prime Minister for not doing more to protect its funding – although colleagues point out that could have been seen as an abuse of position.

NHS cuts expected to spark boom for private healthcare providers.” By Sarah Boseley. Guardian (UK). April 19, 2011. Some private healthcare providers predict a surge in demand for their services as cuts bite. One of the UK’s leading private hospital providers says it expects business to boom as NHS cuts bite, waiting times lengthen and those patients who can find the money decide to pay for treatment instead. Primary care trusts, trying to balance the books before they are abolished under the coalition government’s reforms, are already significantly restricting healthcare services , according to a survey of 500 GPs carried out on behalf of Spire Healthcare, the second largest private hospital group in the country. Although the 500 are only a fraction of the 39,000 GPs in the country, their responses are in line with other evidence that cuts are already being implemented. Most of the GPs who responded reported that they already faced offering a reduced service to patients.

Rich ‘should be forced to aid poor’.” By Gavin Cordon. Independent (UK). April 21, 2011. Rich and powerful people should be required by law to spend some time every year helping the poor and needy, the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested today. Rowan Williams said a return to the medieval tradition when monarchs ritually washed the feet of the poor would serve to remind politicians and bankers what should be the purpose of their wealth and power. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s Thought for the Day slot, he said the Bible made clear it was the duty of the powerful to ensure ordinary people were “treasured and looked after” – especially those without the resources to look after themselves. “What about having a new law that made all Cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate, or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home?” he suggested. Alternatively, he said, they could walk the town streets at night as street pastors “ready to pick up and absorb something of the chaos and human mess you will find there, especially among young people”. Because the duty to serve would be compulsory, those involved would not be able to claim credit for doing it, he added. Dr Williams acknowledged that it might just be “a nice fantasy to mull over during the holiday weekend”, but insisted that it could bring genuine benefits. “It might do two things: reminding our leaders of what the needs really are at grassroots level so that those needs can never again just be remote statistics, and reminding the rest of us what politics and government are really for,” he said.

Archbishop of Canterbury says rich should help poor; Rowan Williams sends Maundy Thursday plea to bankers, politicians and editors to assist communities in need.” By Riazat Butt. Guardian (UK). April 21, 2011. The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called on the rich to help the poor to remind them of the purpose of their wealth. Bankers, politicians and newspaper editors should be legally required to spend a couple of hours every year working with the poor and needy to remind them of the purpose of their power and wealth, the archbishop of Canterbury has suggested. He made the comments on Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and when the British monarch honours deserving subjects. In his contribution to BBC Radio 4′s Thought for the Day slot, Dr Rowan Williams asked: “What about having a new law that made all cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate? “It might do two things: reminding our leaders of what the needs really are at grassroots level, so that those needs can never again be just remote statistics, and reminding the rest of us what politics and government are really for.”

Church urges schools to slash places for believers; Schools have been accused of using faith criteria to exclude those from less well-off families to boost results.” By Joanna Sugden. Times of London. April 22, 2011. Thousands of families who attend church to secure places at popular Church of England schools face being denied entry under radical plans revealed today to overhaul admissions. The C of E is drastically revising its guidelines to limit the number of places offered to those from church backgrounds. It will be a significant blow to parents who attend services or help out with parish activities in order to get their children into high-performing faith schools, and could damage academic standards. The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev John Pritchard, chairman of the C of E’s board of education, said schools should end the bias towards children from religious homes even if it lowers academic results. He said: “Every school will have a policy that [it] has a proportion of places for church youngsters … what I would be saying is that number ought to be minimised because our primary function and our privilege is to serve the wider community. “Ultimately, I hope we can get the number of reserved places right down to 10 per cent.” Anti-faith-school groups welcomed his comments and said that such a move would help to end “discrimination” in faith schools. The C of E’s board of education will publish new guidance this summer urging its schools to be more inclusive and to “remember their core purpose”. Almost one million pupils attend C of E primary and secondary schools, which account for a fifth of the state school sector.
Related stories:
Church school admission plan hailed.” Independent (UK). April 22, 2011.
Church of England schools urged to offer more places to non-Christians; Bishop of Oxford urges CoE school heads to allocate no more than 10% of places to practising Anglicans.” Guardian (UK). April 22, 2011.

The Bishop’s Gaffe; The Church of England should not cut school places for the Anglican faithful.” Times of London. April 23, 2011.
Catholic schools vow to keep the faith when selecting pupils; The Catholic Church says it will not turn away Catholic children.” Times of London. April 23, 2011

Maggie’s bag to be big charity hit; The handbag that terrorised ministers is expected to fetch £100,000 in a sale of items donated by celebrity owners.” By Richard Brooks. Times of London. April 24, 2011. It could be the first Thatcher handbagging to be received with gratitude. The former prime minister is auctioning for charity the black Asprey bag with which she once held male cabinet members and foreign leaders alike in thrall. The bag, in its time almost as potent a political symbol as Sir Winston Churchill’s cigar, is expected to raise more than £100,000 for her chosen good causes when it is offered by Christie’s on June 27 in a sale of items donated by celebrities. Of all Baroness Thatcher’s bags, the one being sold was used most frequently by her for important occasions, such as summits with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s. Lord Archer, the novelist and former Tory party deputy chairman, who will be guest auctioneer at the event, said: “When I asked her to donate an item, she suggested the handbag, and I was delighted.” Last year, a half-smoked cigar abandoned by Churchill in a wartime cabinet meeting sold at auction for £4,500, while a set of his false teeth raised £16,000 earlier this year. Thatcher’s bag is expected to raise so much more because she used it both as a container for state papers and as an instrument of her assertive brand of femininity. Other items in the auction will include the ball from the 2003 rugby world cup final, signed by the victorious England players and donated by Lawrence Dallaglio, who was the No 8 on the team, and an Andy Warhol drawing of Princess Diana, given by Archer. The Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has donated a free trip to next year’s Monaco Grand Prix, including a VIP guest pass with access to the grid area. Andrew Flintoff, the former England cricketer, is providing the chance for two people to caddy for two leading golfers — Charl Schwartzel, the US Masters champion, and Graeme McDowell, winner of last year’s US Open — at the Scottish Open in July.

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