WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 9-15, 2011)

SCANDAL

“‘Books for charity’ bins around Oregon reveal blurry relationship between nonprofit and for-profit businesses.” By D.K. Row. The Oregonian. May 8, 2011. ‘Books for charity’ bins around Oregon are run by a for-profit company that sends only 25 percent of donations to nonprofits or literacy groups. The bins are managed by a for-profit company, Thrift Recycling Management, which ships the books to its headquarters in Lakewood, Wash., for sorting. Thrift then sells 25 percent at online websites such as Amazon, pulps about 50 percent and then hands the remaining 25 percent to nonprofits. Local groups such as Friends of the Tualatin Public Library say the bins are deceptive and will unfairly siphon books from nonprofit efforts. “It doesn’t quite ring true, does it?” said Nan Bogdan, treasurer of the Tualatin library group, which began noticing a decline in book donations several weeks ago, about the time Thrift Recycling began placing bins in Oregon. “I’m dismayed. That’s taking advantage of donations that should go entirely to libraries or schools.” Is an organization a charity? Ross Laybourn, the retired former head of the charities division at the Oregon Department of Justice, agrees the bins could be seen as deceptive because Thrift is acting as a fundraiser but doesn’t make that clear. Thrift Recycling was started seven years ago by Phil McMullin after he realized the volume of books being thrown into landfills, said company President Jeff McMullin, Phil’s son. Now the company has about 200 employees in 10 locations nationwide and about $26 million a year in revenue, he said. But McMullin said Thrift is not just about recycling books for profit. It’s about giving back to the community and helping nonprofits, specifically children’s book and literacy programs. That’s why it’s a registered fundraiser in all 50 states and donates books to a handful of nonprofits, particularly Reading Tree, which receives 80 percent to 90 percent of Thrift’s donations

Harvard Professor Says He Was Misled After Monitor Admits Lobbying Efforts in Libya.” By Gautam S. Kumar. Harvard Crimson. May 9, 2011. Monitor Group said on Friday that elements of work it conducted for Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime from 2006 through 2008—with support from some members of the Harvard faculty—should have been identified as lobbyist activity according to federal policy, leading one involved Harvard professor to say he was misled. Monitor, a consulting firm co-founded by Harvard professors in 1983, said in a statement that it would retroactively register its work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act after the internally-hired law firm Covington & Burling concluded that some of the consulting group’s work in Libya violated the 1938 legislation.
The Libyan government paid the group $250,000 per month to identify opportunities for economic and political reform. The firm’s work also included a program that brought influential “thought leaders”—including two prominent Harvard professors—to the nation, according to The Boston Globe. Harvard Kennedy School Professor Robert D. Putnam, who partook in the Monitor program, told The Globe that he had not known of a lobbying agenda. According to FARA, if any organization engages in political activities for or in the interests of a foreign power or acts in a public relations role for a representative of the power, that firm must register with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Settlement talks with Bishop Eddie Long rocky.” By Ty Tagami. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. May 12, 2011. The settlement negotiations in lawsuits against Bishop Eddie Long were speeding along but may have hit some bumps. The judge in the case told Channel 2 Action News that he is scheduling trial for late summer, the TV station reported Thursday. The threat of a trial appears to conflict with an earlier statement by State Court Judge Johnny Panos. Around Easter, Panos said that the major obstacles to settlement had been resolved and that the parties were discussing small details. Four young men have accused Long, the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, of sexual coercion. He has denied the allegations. New Birth spokesman Art Franklin declined to comment when reached by the AJC on Thursday.

Sidwell Friends School sued for $10 million over alleged affair.” By Mary Pat Flaherty. Washington Post. May 12, 2011. Sidwell Friends School is being sued for $10 million for allegedly failing to supervise a staff psychologist who was having an affair with the married mother of a 5-year-old student he was counseling. The woman’s husband and girl’s father, Arthur G. “Terry” Newmyer, made the allegations in a lawsuit filed Thursday in D.C. Superior Court, in which he also said that he had alerted the school to the alleged affair over the course of a year. In his lawsuit, Newmyer said his daughter suffered emotional distress as the affair became known among teachers and other parents. Ellis Turner, a spokesman for Sidwell, said that “we are very disappointed that Mr. Newmyer chose this course of action” and said the school would “vigorously defend” against allegations that are “completely without merit.” The counseling sessions with the child occurred off school property, the lawsuit states. But Newmyer’s wife, Tara Newmyer, said through an attorney that the school psychologist, identified in the lawsuit as James F. “Jack” Huntington, was not treating her daughter “in any professional capacity.” In a letter to parents sent late Thursday, the school said it “does not believe that anyone it employed ever had a therapeutic relationship” with the Newmyers’ daughter. Arthur Newmyer is an entrepreneur whose family has had a long association with Sidwell, where an annual award to honor volunteerism carries his family’s name. In his suit, however, Newmyer said that he had objected to enrolling his daughter at Sidwell and told his wife that she would have to cover the tuition. The girl remains in kindergarten at the school, the lawsuit states.

Cardiac Society Draws Bulk of Funding From Stent Makers.” ProPublica, May 13, 2011. [For story, go to Health Care].

Drop-off boxes not equally charitable; Some clothing-donation proceeds go to charities; others go to for-profit firms.” By Monica Eng. Chicago Tribune. May 14, 2011. The process of donating used clothing used to be pretty straightforward, with most of it going to big charities like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul. In recent years, however, clothing donation has become more confusing — even as it’s grown more convenient — as a wide array of colorful collection boxes has sprouted up in parking lots all over the nation. Though the drop-off boxes may look similar at first glance, only some are operated by charities. Other boxes are placed by commercial companies that may — or may not — donate some money to charity. And some of the charities involved don’t meet the baseline standards of the Better Business Bureau or the Chicago-based American Institute of Philanthropy. “In the last 15 years or so the landscape has changed,” said Cheryl Lightholder of Goodwill Industries Metropolitan Greater Chicago, which phased out collection boxes here years ago. “These days you’re seeing a lot more of those clothing donation boxes that are typically run by for-profit companies with really no connections to charity, while some might donate a small portion of their profits to charities.” By government estimates, Americans throw 85 percent of their unwanted textiles in the trash each year. That may be, in part, because of a widespread perception that charities want only those items that can be resold in their thrift shops. While these are the most valuable donations, other castoffs can still make millions for charities on the secondary materials market, which includes selling used clothes in developing countries and recycling them for industrial uses.

Family Quarrel Imperils a Labor Hero’s Legacy.” By Jennifer Medina. New York Times. May 13, 2011. A series of dirt roads in this tiny Central Valley town leads to a warren of homes and offices that has been, for decades, the headquarters of the United Farm Workers union. This is where Cesar Chavez, the labor and civil rights leader, carved out a retreat and raised his family. In a former tuberculosis sanatorium, the Chavez children learned the lessons of the union and listened to endless conversations about the backbreaking work in the nearby fields. Now, they are engaged in a simmering battle over the future of the union and its affiliated groups, with the rising tension threatening to accelerate the decline of the once-mighty movement. In March, Anthony Chavez, the youngest son of Cesar Chavez, filed a lawsuit alleging that his brother Paul wrongfully fired him and is withholding thousands of dollars in pension benefits. According to the lawsuit, Paul Chavez, the president of National Farm Workers Service Center, a network of nonprofit groups that grew out of the union, has created a hostile work environment. When Cesar Chavez was alive, he was a major force in California politics and agriculture. “The problem now is that the organization has simply drifted,” said Miriam Pawel, who has written a book about the union and is working on a biography of Mr. Chavez. “It has become a family-run organization that is sort of purposeless and does little or nothing to help farm workers.” The lawsuit alleges that Paul Chavez, 54, refused to fire an employee who stole $500,000 from the organization and instead urged his brother to get rid of one employee who looked as though he “needed to see a mortician.” The case is a window on the strife within the generation that took control of the movement after Mr. Chavez’s death in 1993. Decades ago, he became a national figure, leading farm workers to picket lines and using boycotts to secure union contracts for the notoriously underpaid workers. Now, just a tiny fraction of the nearly half a million farm workers in California operate with a contract.

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