WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 24-30, 2011)

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Pope orders inquiry into child abuse at Ealing.” By David Brown and Sean O’Neill. Times of London. October 25 2011. The Vatican has ordered a top-level inquiry into sexual abuse by clerics at a London abbey after investigations by The Times uncovered decades of mistreatment of children. Monks and lay teachers at Ealing Abbey and the neighbouring St Benedict’s independent school have been linked to abuse dating from at least the 1960s to 2009. The powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome has ordered an historic apostolic visitation amid growing evidence about the scale of the scandal. It is the first such inquiry into child abuse in Britain. Victims believe that the investigation could be the first step towards the disclosure of details of a cover-up of sexual and physical abuse by clerics, an issue that has already rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and Ireland. The apostolic visitation is led by Bishop John Arnold, an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, and Father Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation. The Vatican’s intervention will be interpreted as a rebuke to the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, and the Catholic hierarchy in England, which has insisted for years that the Church in Britain has first-rate child protection policies. It is also a clear signal to Ealing Abbey that the inquiry it commissioned, by Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC, one of the country’s most prominent lawyers, must not be the last word on the scandal.

EUROPE

America’s Exploding Pipe Dream.” By Charles M. Blow. New York Times. October 28, 2011. We are slowly — and painfully — being forced to realize that we are no longer the America of our imaginations. Our greatness was not enshrined. Being a world leader is less about destiny than focused determination, and it is there that we have faltered. We sold ourselves a pipe dream that everyone could get rich and no one would get hurt — a pipe dream that exploded like a pipe bomb when the already-rich grabbed for all the gold; when they used their fortunes to influence government and gain favors and protection; when everyone else was left to scrounge around their ankles in hopes that a few coins would fall. We have not taken care of the least among us. We have allowed a revolting level of income inequality to develop. We have watched as millions of our fellow countrymen have fallen into poverty. And we have done a poor job of educating our children and now threaten to leave them a country that is a shell of its former self. We should be ashamed. Poor policies and poor choices have led to exceedingly poor outcomes. Our societal chickens have come home to roost. This was underscored in a report released on Thursday by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation of Germany entitled “Social Justice in the OECD — How Do the Member States Compare?” It analyzed some metrics of basic fairness and equality among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and ranked America among the ones at the bottom. I could write (and have written) ad nauseam about our woeful state, but it might be more powerful to see it for yourself. So here are some of the sad data from the report.

UK

Peers marshal revolt over cuts in welfare for cancer patients.” By Rosemary Bennett. Times of London. October 24, 2011. A huge revolt against the Government’s welfare reforms is brewing in the House of Lords, with crossbench, Liberal Democrat and Labour peers poised to vote down key sections of the much-vaunted Bill. Two leading crossbenchers will today table amendments removing a time limit that the Government wants to impose on sickness benefit, which would mean thousands of cancer patients losing their money after one year, even if they are still undergoing or recovering from treatment. The Welfare Reform Bill limits Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the new incapacity benefit, to one year even though all those who receive it have paid for it through national insurance. The proposal will leave 7,000 cancer patients up to £94 a week worse off. Under another proposal, cancer patients needing immediate financial help to cover extra costs after their diagnosis will be forced to wait six months instead of three to get an Personal Independence Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance. Lord Patel, a widely respected obstetrician, and Lord Crisp, former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Health, are leading the charge and tabling the amendments. The vote is set to take place next month. A month ago at their party conference, the Liberal Democrats voted overwhelmingly to scrap time-limiting ESA, so a large number of their peers are expected to join the rebellion.

NHS power will be held by quango, leaked document reveals; Malcolm Grant, the government’s choice to run the powerful NHS commissioning board, makes remarkable admission.” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian. October 24, 2011. The health secretary will “franchise” the running of the NHS to a quango for up to three years at a time – a move that will result in an unelected academic and the nation’s 38,000 family doctors, rather than ministers, being accountable for the day-to-day running of the health service, according to leaked documents obtained by the Guardian. In unpublished evidence to the health select committee last week, Malcolm Grant, the government’s choice to run the powerful NHS commissioning board, outlined “an extraordinary transformation of responsibility” that appears to undermine claims by ministers that the proposed legislation will not dilute the government’s constitutional responsibilities to the health service. At present, the cabinet minister for health has a “duty to provide a national health service” in England, but that disappears in the NHS bill’s proposals. Grant, a law professor who runs University College London, told MPs that, under the new system, the secretary of state “mandates” the commissioning board to run the NHS every “two … possibly three years” and then retreats into the shadows. The board will hand over taxpayers’ cash to groups of GPs to buy services on behalf of patients. mHe admitted there would be “a fundamental change of responsibility and accountability under the bill” because about £80bn of public money would be transferred to the board and GPs. He said these two groups – not politicians – would run the NHS and ensure patients received an adequate level of health provision in England.

Charity muggers can take the enjoyment out of giving; It is a rare town centre that isn’t in the grip of the ‘charity mugger’, or street fundraiser. But their aggressiveness makes it easy to forget how good it is to give.” By Richard Coles. Guardian. October 27, 2011. It is a rare town centre that isn’t in the grip of the ‘charity mugger’, or street fundraiser. But their aggressiveness makes it easy to forget how good it is to give. Charity muggers – street fundraisers as they prefer to be called – have now spread, it seems, from cities to little market towns, where they are paid to stop passersby and sign them up to standing orders supporting charitable causes, from Save the Children to the RSPCA. I watched the chuggers at work and saw how they accosted people with arms outstretched, a friendly gesture that is actually designed to funnel you in to their proposal; how they chastised those who wouldn’t stop; how they muttered insults at their retreating backs. Like the charities they represent, they are only trying to make a living.

Families remortgage to help avoid student loan debt; Leading universities discuss deals to scrap government handouts and instead use private lending schemes to fund studies.” By Jack Grimston. Sunday Times. October 30, 2011. A leading university has been holding talks with banks about whether private lending schemes could fund undergraduates studies more cheaply than government loans. Surrey University believes parents remortgaging homes or taking out bank loans could make the cost of courses more affordable for some students, despite the state system being promoted by the government as the best deal on offer. About a third of Surrey’s British undergraduates already take no loans from the government, with families using savings or remortgages to avoid their children piling up debts. Christopher Snowden, the vice-chancellor, anticipates the figure could rise. Theoretically, with a high number of foreign students taking out no British loans and most UK undergraduates opting out of the government scheme, the university could be in a position to leave the state system. Surrey expects to receive only 14% of its funding from the government in 2015. If it were to become private, it could set its own fees, while making provision for poorer students, and work under far less strict regulation. Snowden made it clear, however, that this was not being considered. Surrey, ranked 21 in The Sunday Times University Guide, is one of several institutions, including Warwick and the College of Law, that have explored alternatives to the government scheme. National talks involving the vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK have got nowhere.

Big society guru shocked bosses with expenses; The man behind the Big Society quits a think tank, after colleagues grow concerned at his expense claims and conduct toward lesbian staff.” By Marie Woolf. Sunday Times. October 30, 2011. Phillip Blond, the controversial architect of David Cameron’s big society, left a think tank after less than a year when staff objected to the size of his expenses claims and his behaviour towards lesbian staff. The prime minister’s guru quit Demos over what were officially described as “philosophical differences”, but it is understood that the director and trustees had been concerned by his conduct. On one occasion, staff and people from outside the organisation were shocked to witness Blond telling one young woman that he would not be told what to do by a “lesbian kid”. The former theology lecturer made it clear he was not dismissed from Demos, where during his seven-month stint in 2009 he led a project on progressive conservatism. He then founded the ResPublica think tank. Last weekend, The Sunday Times reported how Blond had used money from ResPublica — which he repaid — to fund holidays abroad, his luxury flat and clothes worth £1,000 from the London tailor Nino’s, whose clients include John Malkovich, the actor, and Usain Bolt, the sprinter. Staff at ResPublica were angry about the scale of his spending and tried to persuade him to surrender his Lloyds TSB bank card after they were paid late and locked out of their offices because of unpaid rent.

Exclusive: Cover-up at St Paul’s; Clerics suppress report on bankers’ greed to save church embarrassment.” By Brian Brady and Jane Merrick. Independent. October 30, 2011. A highly critical report into the moral standards of bankers has been suppressed by St Paul’s Cathedral amid fears that it would inflame tensions over the Occupy London tent protest. The report, based on a survey of 500 City workers who were asked whether they thought they were worth their lucrative salaries and bonuses, was due to be published last Thursday, the day that the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, Giles Fraser, resigned in protest at the church’s tough stance. But publication of the report, by the St Paul’s Institute, has been delayed in an apparent acknowledgement that it would leave the impression that the cathedral was on the side of the protesters. The Independent on Sunday understands that the decision has upset a number of clergy, who hoped that the report would prove that the church was not detached from a financial crisis that had its heart yards from the cathedral itself. The decision will fuel the impression that the wider established church is attempting to stifle debate about the tent protest, as leading members of the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have failed to comment publicly about Occupy London. A spokesman for St Paul’s Cathedral said: “It has been decided to delay publishing this report until further notice as it wouldn’t get the proper debate it deserves in light of the present circumstances.” The spokesman refused to comment what the report’s findings were, but it is understood it raised profound concerns about the banking sector’s willingness to accept responsibility for the financial crisis. Such a critical analysis, coming from the institute which is described as part of St Paul’s Cathedral’s “wider mission”, would be seen as highly inflammatory at a time when the church is going to the High Court to attempt to remove 200 tents from its land.

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