WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 2-8, 2012)

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Trust gets creative to save itself.” By Tim Barlass. Sydney Morning Herald. January 8, 2012. Selling properties, music festivals and creating carbon offsets for businesses through bush regeneration are some of the options being explored by the National Trust as it struggles with its budget. The charity, which cares for NSW’s built, cultural and natural heritage, has reported a loss of $1.6 million it attributed to a decrease in state government funding, a downturn in regional tourism and a smaller share of the corporate dollar. The trust’s chief executive, Will Holmes a Court, resigned last month after warning he would consider mothballing heritage properties without more government funding. The Minister for Heritage, Robyn Parker, announced a review, but as yet has made ”no bankable commitment”, Mr Holmes a Court said. ”To that end, I proposed … that I leave, making way for a smaller organisation,” he said in a statement. He later told The Sun-Herald the charity may not have been vocal enough in insisting on funding. ”We may have been too courteous and too conservative and too nice.” The National Trust NSW’s new head, Brian Scarsbrick, said ”all options are being looked at” to improve the charity’s finances. ”There could be a situation where a property may be sold or developed in a sensitive heritage way. There are no plans yet to sell anything,” he said, adding music festivals at heritage properties could also help attract younger people.

BELARUS

In Belarus, the freedom of the internet is at stake; Europe’s last dictatorship is clamping down on online activism, with a new law effectively requiring everyone to be a state spy.” By Mike Harris. Guardian. January 6, 2012. As of this morning, the internet in Belarus got smaller. A draconian new law is in force that allows the authorities to prosecute internet cafes if their users visit any foreign sites without being “monitored” by the owner. All commercial activity online is now illegal unless conducted via a .by (Belarusian) domain name, making Amazon and eBay’s operations against the law unless they collaborate with the regime’s censorship and register there. The law effectively implements the privatisation of state censorship: everyone is required to be a state spy. Belarusians who allow friends to use their internet connection at home will be responsible for the sites they visit. Some have tried to defend the law, stating all countries regulate the internet in some form – but the Belarusian banned list of websites contains all the leading opposition websites. The fine for visiting these sites is half a month’s wages for a single view. The Arab spring has been a wake-up call to the world’s remaining despots. The internet allowed images of open dissent to disseminate instantly. As Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak found out, once you reach a critical mass of public protest you haven’t got long to board your private jet. It’s a lesson learned by Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus and Europe’s last dictator, and also by the Belarusian opposition. Lukashenko attempted to destroy the political opposition after the rigged 2010 presidential elections. Seven of the nine presidential candidates were arrested alongside thousands of political activists. The will of those detained was tested: there are allegations that presidential candidates Andrei Sannikov and Mikalai Statkevich have been tortured while in prison. The opposition is yet to recover; many of its leading figures have fled to Lithuania and Poland. Within this vacuum of leadership, the internet helped spur a civil society backlash. After the sentencing of the presidential candidates, a movement inspired by the Arab spring “The Revolution Via Social Networks” mushroomed into a wave of protests that brought dissent to towns across Belarus usually loyal to Lukashenko. As the penal code had already criminalised spontaneous political protest with its requirements for pre-notification, the demonstrations were silent, with no slogans, no banners, no flags, no shouting, no swearing – just clapping. “The Revolution Via Social Networks” (RSN) helped co-ordinate these protests online via VKontakte (the biggest rival to Facebook in Russia and Belarus with more than 135 million registered users). RSN now has more than 32,000 supporters.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

10 years after abuse crisis, O’Malley dealing with effects.” By Mark Arsenault. Boston Globe. January 03, 2012. In an interview marking the 10-year anniversary of clergy sex abuse revelations, Cardinal Sean O’Malley talks about guiding the Archdiocese of Boston’s atonement.

Monk who paid 50p a time to young pupil he abused is jailed.” By Sean O’Neill and Richard Savill. Times of London. January 4, 2012. A Benedictine monk and teacher at one of England’s leading Roman Catholic schools was jailed for five years yesterday for sex attacks on pupils in his care. Richard White, 66, who taught at Downside School near Bath, had been in a restricted ministry for more than 20 years after his behaviour first came to the attention of the school authorities. His conviction is the latest scandal to hit the English Benedictine congregation after monks from the religious order’s communities at Ampleforth, Ealing and Buckfast were also jailed for child sex offences. Father Richard Yeo, the former Abbot of Downside, recently resigned from a Vatican inquiry into sex abuse at Ealing Abbey in West London after concerns about the Benedictine order’s record in dealing with child abuse cases. White, a former geography teacher, pleaded guilty at Taunton Crown Court to seven sexual offences involving a boy under the age of 14 at Downside. At the time of the abuse he was known as Father Nicholas. White committed the offences between September 1988 and May 1989 when his victim was aged from 12 to 13. The monk, who served in the Royal Artillery for several years, asked for four similar offences involving a second child of the same age to be taken into consideration. The court was told that White was warned about his behaviour at the time of the offences but the school principal did not report the allegation to police and the monk was switched to teaching older boys. He later indecently assaulted the second boy in 1988-89.

States Weigh Time Frame For Child Sex Abuse Suits.” By Joel Rose. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. January 3, 2012. Lawmakers in Trenton, N.J., are considering a bill that would completely eliminate the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases. The current state law allows victims to file suit up to two years after they turn 18. Stories of child sexual abuse dominated the headlines in 2011, but because the alleged crimes happened so long ago, few of the victims in those cases were able to sue their abusers. Now, lawmakers around the country are pushing to extend or waive their states’ statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse charges, but the initiative has its opponents — including the Catholic Church — who argue it could unleash a torrent of lawsuits. Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering a bill that would completely eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, but that bill has some powerful opponents. Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, testified against the bill at a hearing in Trenton in late 2010. “The reality is that this proposal simply fosters lawsuits,” he said at the time. “How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old? Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.” The New Jersey bill’s opponents point to what happened in California in 2003, when the state approved a temporary, one-year window in which the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits did not apply. During that year, more than 800 claims of clergy abuse were filed against the Catholic Church. Delaware followed California’s approach, resulting in about 100 lawsuits. Lawmakers in New York and Pennsylvania are pushing similar bills, which have stalled in the past. Pennsylvania state Rep. Michael McGeehan is sponsoring a bill that would temporarily waive the statute of limitations for sex abuse charges.

Church’s response to abuse not good enough for some.” By Brian MacQuarrie. Boston Globe. January 4, 2012. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley issued a report today outlining the church’s response to the scandal that broke 10 years ago this month, but critics said they were unimpressed.

EGYPT

American Groups Rebut Egyptian Accusations.” By David D. Kirkpatrick. New York Times. January 2, 2012. Two American democracy-building organizations accused Egypt’s military-led government of a campaign of false statements about their activities and history, ratcheting up a confrontation between Washington and Cairo over police raids that shut down the groups’ offices. The raids were part of an investigation into accusations that the groups and eight other nonprofit rights organizations were illegally receiving foreign financial support to influence Egypt’s politics or undermine its security. But the two organizations, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, are especially significant in part because they are closely allied with the Congressional party caucuses and are financed primarily by the United States government. By virtue of that association, the raids by the Egyptian police — who confiscated files, money and computers — amounted to a pointed snub to Washington, a major Egyptian donor and ally. The raids followed a drumbeat of suggestions from the government that Washington was funneling money to groups here in order to destabilize the country — a pattern of complaints that American officials have denounced as creeping “anti-Americanism.” The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which operate around the world, said that they provide training in the nuts and bolts of grass-roots organizing, nonpartisan voter education and electoral campaigns, but that they do not seek to influence political outcomes. Both said that they had first applied for an official registration required to operate in Egypt several years ago.
Related stories:
Egypt’s NGO crackdown; Tensions rise in Cairo as Egyptian forces raided the offices of human rights and pro-democracy groups.” Aljazeera (www.aljazeera.com). December 31, 2011.
Military Rulers Clamp Down on Civil Society.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 5, 2012.

HAITI

A Billionaire Lends Haiti a Hand.” By Stephanie Strom. New York Times. January 6, 2012. Almost two years after an earthquake ravaged this city, some half a million people are still living in filthy tents, cholera has infected a similar number across the country and the president works from a flimsy prefab structure behind the still crumpled Presidential Palace. Denis O’Brien, an impatient Irish billionaire who tends to make his points with a few choice profanities, is determined to change all that. On a recent sunny morning, he presided over the opening of the 50th school that his vast telecommunications company, Digicel, has rebuilt since the quake struck in 2010 — and then he promptly pledged to build another 80 schools by 2014. His intention is not, however, to be a one-man force for change. With a skill for what he calls “frying feet,” he has sweet-talked, cajoled, harangued, nagged, strong-armed and shamed government officials, international financiers and business leaders into doing more to rebuild Haiti. “It’s all about project management,” Mr. O’Brien, 53, said in an interview at Digicel’s offices here. “Everyone’s on hand for the photo op, but where are the 100 houses that were promised after the cameras are gone? I’m the guy who’s going to count them.” In the process, he has become de facto ambassador for an emerging business-centered approach to the redevelopment of this disaster-prone nation, which has so long relied on the work of nonprofit groups and aid agencies that it is known as the Republic of N.G.O.’s, or nongovernmental organizations. “We’ve seen the growth of the N.G.O. community here for the last 20 years, and many of them do good work and there is a demand and a need for that work,” said Lionel Delatour, a business consultant and lobbyist whose brothers have served as government ministers. “But N.G.O.’s do not pay taxes, and when they bring their supplies and cars and other goods into the country, they do not pay customs duties.”

INDIA

Fighting for a Less Corrupt New Year.” By Ranjit Devraj. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 4, 2012. After failing to muster support in parliament for the passage of a watered- down anti-corruption bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must find ways to satisfy opposition parties, allies and civil society that his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is serious about curbing graft in the New Year. The bill passed through the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, on Dec. 27 but tripped up in the Rajya Sabha, or upper house, on Thursday after opposition parties and allies tabled no fewer than 187 amendments to the ‘Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill’ to monitor government dealings for graft and other irregularities. That left Singh’s Congress party-led UPA government and opposition parties accusing each other of scuttling the bill. “The bill is not defeated. It can be taken up in the next session of parliament. Hard work lies ahead,” union home minister P. Chidambaram said at a press briefing on Friday. While Chidambaram pleaded that the government needed time to study the demanded amendments, the leader of main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party Arun Jaitley accused the government of “running away” from a vote on the bill to avoid its certain defeat. With the bill pending until the next parliament session in February, opposition parties and civil society plan to step up public agitations aimed at forcing the government to make amendments that would give the ombudsman legislation more teeth. Over the past year the government has been under pressure to pass an effective Lokpal Bill by an anti- corruption campaign led by Anna Hazare, 73, who has vowed to continue Gandhian-style agitations against graft, now reckoned to have reached unprecedented heights.

RUSSIA

Church Hints It May Serve as Mediator in Russia.” By Sophia Kishkovsky. New York Times. January 6, 2012. A senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church has indicated that the church is moving toward a middle position between the government and opponents who staged two huge demonstrations last month, warning that if the authorities do not respond to people’s concerns they could be “slowly eaten alive.” The official, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who oversees church and society relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, said in an essay and a radio interview on Thursday that Russia would never be the same after the demonstrations. He called for a national dialogue to address the interests of the entire population rather than just the technologically savvy urban middle class driving the demonstrations. A platform is needed for “people who are patriotically inclined,” he said. Just 15 minutes after the Interfax news agency posted a report on Father Chaplin’s essay, Vladimir Legoyda, another spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, announced that the church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill I, would give “a very important interview,” on Rossiya 1, the main television channel, at noon on Saturday, which is Christmas Day in Russia. He said Patriarch Kirill would talk about Bolotnaya Ploshchad, the site in Moscow where the first mass demonstration was held on Dec. 10. It has become a watchword for the protest movement in Russia. Patriarch Kirill has spoken in the past three weeks of rampant corruption and the need for moral transformation. Two days ago, Aleksei Navalny, an anticorruption crusader turned opposition leader, said in an interview that he would like to see the Russian Orthodox Church serve as mediator. Mr. Navalny, who has a following among the middle class and nationalists, discussed the role of churches in bringing down dictators with Boris Akunin, a novelist who has spoken at both opposition rallies. “It’s interesting that almost everywhere the main intermediary between dictators and protesters has been the church,” Mr. Navalny said in the interview, which Mr. Akunin posted on his blog. “Is this possible here right now? It’s unlikely. But I would very much like for the Russian Orthodox Church to take up such a role in society, so that all conflicting sides would seek and accept its mediation.”

UK

Scientologists at war over leader who raised $1bn.” By Jacqui Goddard. Times of London. January 3, 2012. Its teachings about extraterrestrial civilisations and alien interlopers has long singled it out as one of the world’s most controversial religions. Now the Church of Scientology is facing a rebellion closer to home after a broadside from one of its senior leading members. In a bombshell e-mail sent to thousands of Scientologists, Debbie Cook, one of the most respected figures within the Church, suggests that the organisation has lost its way under its chairman, David Miscavige, whose “extreme” fundraising methods have allowed it to stack up a $1 billion fortune. Mr Miscavige, whose celebrity lieutenants include John Travolta, Lisa Marie Presley and Tom Cruise, is said to have formed a one-man power base in contravention of principles laid down by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author who founded the Church in the 1950s. The leaked e-mail depicts Mr Miscavige as a tyrant who has strayed “off-policy”. It accuses him of heavy-handed fundraising, spending millions on building lavish facilities that then lie empty, and dismantling watchdog mechanisms set in place to prevent the organisation becoming an autocracy. Those who stand in his way face “long and harsh” disciplinary action and have been removed from their posts, Ms Cook says. Calling on members to form a resistance movement under the banner “Keep Scientology Working”, Ms Cook urges: “We are a strong and powerful group and we can effect a change. We have weathered many storms. I am sorry that I am the one telling you, but a new storm is upon us.” She declares her continued belief in Scientology, which under US tax laws is considered a religion, but adds that she can no longer tolerate its current path.
Related story:
Conflict at the heart of Scientology is exposed in bitter email outburst; Clergy member’s letter to 12,000 followers attacks church leader’s ‘obsession’ with money.Independent (UK). January 4, 2012.

Duchess of Cambridge names the charities she will support; Ex-Brownie Kate signs up to go camping with the Scouts – and undergoes a criminal records check.” By Stephen Bates. Guardian. January 4, 2012. She might be the future Queen, one of the most well-known women in the world (and a former Brownie), but like anyone wanting to volunteer with the Scouts, she had to undergo a criminal records check. The Duchess of Cambridge is to become a regular helper with junior Scout groups in London and north Wales after making the Scout Association one of the first voluntary organisations with which she will officially be associated. St James’s Palace said this means she will help to supervise games and other activities and probably go on weekend camps. In contrast to the designer wear she is usually seen in, she will wear the standard uniform of polo shirt and scarf, secured with a friendship knot rather than a woggle these days. A supporter’s polo shirt costs £14.30 and scarf £5.35, while splashing out on a baseball cap would add an extra fiver to the ensemble. The Queen is president of the Scout Association and the Duke of Kent its patron – royal association with the movement goes back to before the second world war when George VI attended Scout camps and joined in their sing-songs. Simon Carter, the Scout Association’s spokesman, said: “The bottom line is that she wants to help on a regular basis and we are delighted. One of the biggest challenges for us is that we have 33,000 children on our waiting lists wanting to join and we need more adult volunteers to help. If someone who is high-profile and has a busy schedule is prepared to join in, that may encourage others to come forward to help too.

Live Q&A: Managing volunteers on a tight budget, Tuesday 10 January; Join our expert panel from 1pm to 3pm to discuss how you can manage your volunteers cost-effectively.” By Kate Hodge. Guardian. January 5, 2012. Managing volunteers is critical to many charities’ functions. As budgets tighten, they need to find new ways to recruit, manage and retain volunteers, delivering better services to their beneficiaries at reduced cost. With this in mind, the first live Q&A of 2012 will look at how charities can ensure they are using volunteers efficiently without breaking the bank. We’ll consider:• Volunteer management best practice; • What help and support is available; • The role of digital innovation in volunteer management. You can leave your views and questions in the comments section below now, or come back to join the discussion live from 1pm to 3pm on Tuesday 10 January. If you’d like to join our experts on the panel, email Kate Hodge.

David Cameron orders merging of health and social care; Integration of services will save money says prime minister as NHS warns changes will lead to hospital closures.” By Denis Campbel. Guardian. January 4, 2012. David Cameron has ordered health and social care services to be brought together in order to benefit patients in a move which government advisers are calling the NHS’s most urgent overhaul. At the moment, health and social care – the help given mainly to old or disabled patients to help them continue to live at home rather than in hospital or nursing homes – are different systems in England. NHS medical treatment and domiciliary support, which is provided mainly by local councils, are usually not joined-up. But Cameron has told the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, to drive through changes that health policy experts claim will make life more convenient for patients, improve care and save the NHS money. The changes will lead to some hospitals closing, warned the pro-integration NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals and other major NHS employers. The prime minister has been persuaded by senior doctors and Downing Street health advisers that, without integration, the NHS could become unsustainable due to rises in the number of patients with long-term health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and breathing problems. The first move towards creating joined-up services is likely to see Lansley tell the NHS that it has to give integration the same priority that keeping waiting lists under control has had for the last decade. That new target is the key recommendation of a new report on integrating care by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust health thinktanks, whose chief executives both advise Downing Street. They want the introduction of “a clear, ambitious and measurable goal to improve the experience of patients and service users, and to be delivered by a defined date. This goal would serve a similar purpose to the aim of delivering a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks for patients receiving hospital care.”

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