Geldof to advise UK Conservatives

Musician and activist Bob Geldof is lending his expertise -- if not his vote -- to Britain's opposition Conservative Party as adviser to a working group on global poverty, new party leader David Cameron said. Cameron, who won the Conservative leadership with a promise to broaden the party's appeal, sought Geldof's assistance in developing policy.

Geldof's participation comes despite his friendship with Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and a history of antagonism with former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The two clashed in the 1980s when her government initially refused to waive a tax levied on the Band Aid charity single -- recorded to raise money for African famine relief. The government eventually backed down.

Geldof organized the 1985 Live Aid concerts and last summer's Live 8 shows, staged to pressure leaders of the G-8 group of wealthy nations to act against poverty when they met for a July summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

"I don't care who I have to get to, to make this agenda work," Geldof said. "They must know that I am in no one's pocket, that I am not beholden to anyone.".

The international aid agency ActionAid said the Conservatives must prove their commitment to development after cutting Britain's aid budget when last in office. "The last Conservative government slashed aid as a percentage of national income by more than half and were at the forefront of globally promoting a damaging free trade, one-size-fits-all, privatized model of development that poor countries are still paying for today," said Steve Tibbett, policy chief at ActionAid.

Britain's Department for International Development confirmed that aid as a proportion of the national income fell under the Conservative government from 0.51 percent in 1979 to 0.26 percent in 1997, when Labour took office. The 2005 figure is 0.4 percent.

Associated Press


Uncle Sam Wants More of Your Money

Americans, particularly at this time of year, open their wallets to all manner of good causes. But donating to Uncle Sam's foreign-aid efforts isn't very high on the list.

In September, officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development unveiled what they considered to be an inspired idea: augment the billions of taxpayer dollars already allocated for foreign aid by asking individual Americans to give money for development projects.

The first needy case put forth was Iraq. USAID unveiled the Iraq Partnership to allow Americans to "contribute directly to local development projects in Iraq" and "help put desks in classrooms; provide water pumps to farmers; and improve medical services throughout the country."

The general difficulty of doing business in Iraq has meant that “only” $13 billion of the $30 billion that Congress allocated for rebuilding the country and training its security forces has been spent.

As of this week, the Iraq Partnership had only raised $1,500. Which seems to send a signal to Uncle Sam.

[Excerpt of article by Yochi J. Dreazen, The Wall Street Journal]


Queen Elizabeth delivers annual message

Queen Elizabeth II delivered a somber annual Christmas message, focusing on the suffering wrought by the "dreadful events" of the past 12 months -- the Asian tsunami, the Pakistan-Indian earthquake, the hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, and the suicide bombings in London.

But the silver lining amid the series of "natural and human tragedies" was "a quite remarkable humanitarian response" -- a reminder of how faith can motivate people to "work together." She called the humanitarian response after the tragedies from "people of compassion" as "quite remarkable," noting that religious faith was the inspiration "in many cases" for such a reaction.

"Christianity is not the only religion to teach its followers to help others and to treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated yourself. It has been clear that in the course of this year relief workers and financial support have come from members of every faith and from every corner of the world."



Charity of the American People

Americans are "stingy." This was the accusation hurled at the U.S. almost exactly one year ago by Jan England, United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, immediately after the Asian tsunami disaster.

The circumstances were such at the time: The Bush Administration initially pledged $15 million toward tsunami relief efforts.

After the above remark received considerable worldwise publicity, the U.S. Administration raised its contribution to a more realistic $350 million. But even this larger figure works out to just under $1.20 per American.

This comment that Americans are stingy no doubt expresses the view of many foreign elites, who have come to believe that government is the only true source of goodness and charity.

A distinction should be made here between American government giving and American citizen giving. For example in a given year that Americans privately gave a very gnerous $34 billion overseas, official US foreign aid was $15 billion, less than half as much.

As for the generosity of the American people, the following from a Wall Street Journal editorial speaks volumes:

In the weeks and months that followed the tsunami, American citizens dug deep into their wallets, donating some $1.78 billion to the relief effort in Asia -- dwarfing the contributions of other developed nations. Since October Americans have also contributed $78 million to assist the casualties of the Pakistan earthquake.

The quarter trillion dollars a year that Americans provide to sustain the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the American Cancer Society, their local churches, universities and such is greater than the entire GDP of most countries.

Bill and Melinda Gates have given more dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa than have many nations.

This generosity in money and volunteerism has been a hallmark of American society since its earliest days. Some 150 years ago Alexis de Tocqueville lauded the impulse of Americans (in contrast to Europeans) to set up churches, schools, orphanages, hospitals, homeless shelters and other civic aid organizations throughout the land.

[Includes excerpts of an Editorial in The Wall Street Journal]


Reflections on the "season of sharing"

The following is not meant to be a “Bah, humbug!” commentary on Christmas, itself a joyous occasion in the Christian calendar.

It is simply meant to be a moment of reflection on how much we as a nation GIVE at Christmas, in the true sense of the season – a season of sharing.

Specifically, how generous are we as individuals in our charitable giving at this time of year? Do we pat ourselves on the back because we dropped a dollar or two in the Salvation Army basket while spending hundreds shopping at the mall, feeling that we have done our part?

I’ve heard it said that it’s not what you give that counts, it’s what you have left.

In the hustle and bustle of the season, how much do our hearts (and wallets) go out to help others outside of our circle, especially the poor of the world?

Hey, it's not just about helping people. Consider that Americans spend $8 billion on Christmas decorations alone, a figure that is almost 4 times what we even give to protect animals and the environment.

A typical American child receives 70 new toys a year, most of them at Christmas.

8 in 10 dog owners buy their pet holiday gifts, as do 6 in 10 cat owners.

Source of statistics: "Who Gives a $*&t?" on Mother Jones Web site.

More on the "season of sharing"

Today, families of Christian background gather to exchange gifts, sing Christmas carols and have dinner. At sundown, Jewish families will gather to light the first candle on a special eight-branch menorah. People of all faiths, as well as the secular, will gather for a meal with family and friends.

Take a moment to reflect that during the course of the year, the “average” American family throws away 14% of its food.

Meanwhile 1 in 9 U.S. families are never sure they’ll have enough to eat.

And internationally, hunger statistics are far, far worse. One billion people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

Every day, about 24,000 people die from hunger or hunger-related causes. (And this is down from 35,000 a day, from ten years ago.)

So today, whether you regard the day as the birth of Christ, or the beginning of Hanukah or simply “ the holidays” and a time to get together with family and friends in a warm cozy setting, take a moment to remember those without a home, without food, or without a family.

If you wanted to test the charitable limits of humanity, you probably could not devise a greater challenge than the disasters of the last twelve months: Hurricanes, earthquakes, and the tsunami.

Consider donating to a charity with an international focus. Besides finding that your charitable buying power is greatly enhanced when your gift goes overseas, where so much more can be accomplished with much less cost, you will experience the joy of giving, and the true spirit of the season.

God bless and keep us all, every one.

Source for statistics: "Who Gives a $*&t?" on Mother Jones Web site.


Giving aid to foreign countries

In a current poll, the American public agreed with the assertion that “taking care of problems at home is more important than giving aid to foreign countries.”

But this does mean that Americans think that no aid should go overseas. When respondents were asked what percentage of their tax dollars that go to help poor people at home and abroad … should go to help poor people in other countries, the response was 16%. (Down from a 22% response in a 1996 poll.)

Strikingly, this turns out to be a far higher percentage than is currently given.

The year this poll was taken, only about four per cent (4%) of the total spent went toward causes that in any way benefited the poor abroad. (Nowhere near the above 16 – 22%.)

Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.

Only 1% of Federal Budget for Foreign Aid

From a survey of America's charity habits:

On average, Americans think that 24% of the federal budget goes toward foreign aid.

In actuality, less than 1% does.

The priority of US “foreign aid” is arms and military assistance to foreign countries.

Last year alone, the United States provided a cool $18.6 Billion in arms and military assistance to foreign countries.

Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.


World hunger and poverty: American Public vs. American Policy

The vast majority of the American public is very supportive of efforts to alleviate world hunger and poverty.

An overwhelming 87% favored the US “giving food and medical assistance to people in needy countries”.

As to which countries we would judge preferable to give foreign aid to:
59% of Americans choose “countries with poorest economies”
23% of Americans choose “countries important to US security”
13% of Americans choose “countries needed by the US as trade partners”

Unfortunately, the real figures for US foreign aid do not in any way reflect the desires of the American public.

Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.

Aid and Security Interests

In a 2001 poll,

63% of Americans voted “When hunger is a major problem … we should send aid whether or not the US has a security interest in that region.”

Only 34% of Americans voted “We should only send aid to parts of the world where the US has security interests.”

So much for going with the will of the people.

Source: Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.


American Aid to Africa

Four years after President Bush founded the Millennium Challenge Corporation to reward Africa’s best-run countries and pledged to fund it by $5 billion a year, the MCC has disbursed only 1% of that amount.

President Bush pledged $5 billion a year to Africa's best-run countries; to date, the program has distributed $400,000.

Asked about doubling African aid, Bush said, “It doesn’t fit our budgetary process.”

Source: Millennium Challenge Corporation Millennium Challenge Account

Source: Doubling Aid to Africa: The New York Times The Washington Post June 2, 2005.


Amount of donation per disaster victim

We read about the huge outpouring of donations that we Americans have contributed to help survivors of major disasters.

Did you know, proportional to the number of people killed and or displaced by these disasters --that is calculating the amount of donation per victim -- that we gave:

628 times more per victim of 9/11 than we did per victim of the Asian Tsunami victims?

U.S. donations made thus far per victim of 9/11, and the tsunami, respectively:

9/11 ----------------$736,771
Tsunami --------------- 1,173

Obviously there are different circumstances surrounding each disaster scenario, but one question to muse on here: Are lives in poorer areas of the world worth so much less than others?

From "Who Gives a $*&t?" on Mother Jones Web site.


TIME's Persons of the Year

These are not the people you expect to come to the rescue.

[Re: Bono] - Rock stars are designed to be shiny, shallow creatures, furloughed from reality for all time.

[Re: Bill and Melinda Gates] - Billionaires are even more removed, nestled atop fantastic wealth where they never again have to place their own calls or defrost dinner or fly commercial.

And so another alliance was born: unlikely, unsentimental, hard nosed, clear eyed and dead set on driving poverty into history. The rocker's job is to be raucous, grab our attention. The engineers' job is to make things work. 2005 is the year they turned the corner.

It makes you think that if these guys can decide to make it their mission to save the world, partner with people they would never otherwise meet, care about causes that are not sexy or dignified in the ways that celebrities normally require, then no one really has a good excuse anymore for just staying on the sidelines and watching.

[Full article at TIME's Persons of the Year]

Superrich Are Not the Most Generous

Middle class Americans are two to six times more generous in the share of their investments that they give to charity than Americans who make more than $10 million., a pioneering study of federal tax data shows.

The least generous of all working-age Americans were among the young and prosperous - those 285 taxpayers age 35 and under who made more than $10 million - and the 18,600 taxpayers making $500,000 to $1 million.

On average these two groups made charitable gifts equal to 0.4 percent of their assets, while people the same age who made $50,000 to $100,000 gave gifts equal to more than 2.5 percent of their investment assets, six times that of their far wealthier peers.

[Above figures based on 2003, the latest year for which Internal Revenue Service data is available]

[Excerpted from an article by David Cay Johnston, The New York Times]


Medical Research and Developing Nations

In the West, and the US especially, we see a lot of adverts by large transnational pharmaceutical companies. … It is becoming increasingly apparent and of concern how the emphasis on new drugs and cures being developed fit a class distinction, where the research is on problems that affect the wealthier people and those who can afford the cures.

"Multinational pharmaceutical companies neglect the diseases of the tropics, not because the science is impossible but because there is, in the cold economics of the drugs companies, no market. There is, of course, a market in the sense that there is a need: millions of people die from preventable or curable diseases every week.

"But there is no market in the sense that, unlike Viagra, medicines for leishmaniasis are needed by poor people in poor countries. Pharmaceutical companies judge that they would not get sufficient return on research investment, so why, they ask, should we bother? Their obligation to shareholders, they say, demands that they put the effort into trying to find cures for the diseases of affluence and longevity — heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s. Of the thousands of new compounds drug companies have brought to the market in recent years, fewer than 1% are for tropical diseases....

"In the corporate headquarters of major drug companies, the public relations posters display the image they like to present: of caring companies that bring benefit to humanity, relieving the suffering of the sick. What they don’t say, is that, so far, their humanity has not extended beyond the limits of the pockets of the sick."

[Excerpt of research compilation by Anup Shah. Above quattaion from Isabel Hilton, A Bitter Pill For The World’s Poor, the Guardian]


Third World dying of preventable, curable diseases

“Many people, most of them in tropical countries of the Third World, die of preventable, curable diseases. ... Malaria, tuberculosis, acute lower-respiratory infections ... They die because it doesn’t pay to keep them alive. ... Only 1 percent of all new medicines brought to market by multinational pharmaceutical companies ...were designed specifically to treat tropical diseases plaguing the Third World.”

[Ken Silverstein, Millions for Viagra, Pennies for Diseases of the Poor, The Nation]


Global health inequity

Only a fraction of the billions spent on medical research targets illnesses that affect poor countries, even though these same illnesses account for 90 percent of the world's disease burden.

Each year some 10 million children die before their fifth birthday -- that's almost as though the population of two Marylands were wiped out annually -- and around three-quarters could be saved by basic medicines that already exist.

Fixing the twin injustices of skewed research dollars and haphazard deployment is the mission of the foundation set up by Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda.

Until just a few years ago, history's most generous philanthropist was John D. Rockefeller, whose dominance of the oil industry in the late 19th century made him the Bill Gates of his time. But the Gateses have already given $28.8 billion, four times as much as Rockefeller measured in inflation-adjusted dollars, and whereas Rockefeller was two months shy of his 70th birthday when he made his first blockbuster donation, the Gateses have taken to philanthropy while still comparatively young.

Yet it's not just the giving that's important. "We don't sit there and say, 'Hey, we gave away $9 billion,' " Bill Gates remarks in another conversation later. "We ask, 'How are we doing against malaria?' "

[Excerpt of an Op Ed by Sebastian Mallaby, The Washington Post]


Less than 50% of Foreign Aid goes to Poor Countries

A recent report sponsored by Action Aid and Oxfam reveals that less than half of foreign aid gets spent in the poorest countries, and only 10% is spent on basic services.

40% of aid is tied to overpriced goods and services from the donor countries.

By contrast, private philanthropy can place well-targeted aid right at the grassroots and can fuel local initiatives that address local needs, bypasses bureaucratic channels and political dead-ends, and arrives with few strings attached.


Charity stays inside wealthiest countries

A strange fact of philanthropy is that most charitable giving stays inside the wealthiest countries.

Americans, for instance, regard themselves as generous, yet only a tiny fraction of US charity goes anywhere outside the country.

Most charity stays in the two dozen richest nations!

How ironic that so little flows to the poorest nations where human needs are greatest and opportunities for doing good are exceptional.



5 Reasons to Give Internationally

Here are 5 good reasons to support international charity:

1. HIGH IMPACT: International giving is intelligent giving. Why? Because it is efficient giving. Small donations can yield big results. Although the overall international need far exceeds the capacity of private philanthropy, the needs of specific communities at the grassroots are simple, concrete and they can be addressed.

2. REWARDS: Few activities provide the same satisfaction, achievement and sense of contribution as international philanthropy. By supporting a foreign project overseas you help people take control of their lives, you challenge global inequity and break down the national and cultural barriers that feed poverty, tension and conflict. As a donor, you also get the rare and wonderful feeling of seeing concrete and dramatic results from your gift.

3. OFFICIAL FAILURES: Governments from post-industrialized countries are the primary donors for international development and relief. Since the end of the Cold War, individual governments have significantly decreased their contributions. Between 1992 and 1997, official assistance from leading industrialized countries dropped 30 percent, while their GNPs jumped almost 30.

4. PHILANTHROPIC ISOLATION: Even our most basic details – the food we eat and clothes we wear – are enmeshed in the flow of international capital, goods, services and labor. Does it make sense in this context that philanthropy should maintain an exclusively local orientation?

5. GLOBALIZATION: Income disparity and inequity among peoples and nations exists today as never before. Despite globalization, today 3 billion people subsist on 2 dollars (U.S.) a day. In an age of intensifying interconnection, to be consistent with our philanthropic ideals we cannot just think globally. --We must act globally by giving globally!

[Courtesy of International Donor's Dialogue, and Family Care Foundation websites]


The not-so-expensive plight of the world's children

More than half the world's children suffer the effects of poverty, war and HIV/AIDS, denying them a healthy and safe childhood, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF concludes that the world has the capacity to reduce poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS and improve the plight of the world's children.

This could be achieved at an annual cost of $40-$70 Billion.

World spending on military runs at about $1,000 Billion.

In other words, to reduce poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS and thus improve the plight of the children of the world it would only require roughly 5% of present military spending.


Figures Reveal Dynamics of Disaster Giving

Donations for the victims of the earthquake that ripped through Pakistan and India have not come close to the level of giving that followed the tsunami that wreaked havoc around the rim of the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed a huge swath of the Gulf Coast. But relief organizations and fund-raising experts say the generosity directed toward the victims of those disasters was aberrational and should not be used as a yardstick to measure giving for other emergencies.

"Giving for the tsunami was literally off the charts," said Patrick Rooney, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which tracks giving. "There may be an issue of donor fatigue, it's too early to tell, but it looks like giving for the Pakistan earthquake is more typical of the historical response by U.S. donors to international emergencies."

Before the tsunami, the biggest amount collected by the American Red Cross for an international disaster was $50 million. The Red Cross collected $556 million for tsunami relief.

Overall, $1.3 billion was collected for the tsunami relief and $1.8 billion has been collected for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

[Excerpted from an article by Stephanie Strom, The New York Times]


What you gain when you give

I ran across this short story that is long in meaning, a story that illustrates we all have something to give.

“A year ago we decided to quit eating out as much and to use the money to support a needy child. We keep her photo in our dining room and pray for her almost every night. Our daughters write her letters and consider her part of our extended family.

"It’s tough not to feel rich when you’re giving money away.”

Charity: The kindness one shows to others

You really did them a charity! "How charitable of you!" We say such things to applaud kindnesses - but what does it really mean?

Generally, charity is known less as the inclination toward kindness that it describes than as the action that it engenders.

Charity is also the act of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, the giving of money or of aid, the being generous and full of sympathy and understanding.

Charity can be giving your spare change to a homeless person, or writing a check to an organization that does research on medicines for sick children.

Charity can be spending time with lonely elderly people, or it can even be offering sympathetic words to someone who is having a hard day.

The translation of your sense of charity into action can be as small as letting someone cut ahead of you in traffic when you are in a rush, or as large as a million-dollar donation to an organization that provides disaster relief. There are innumerable opportunities every day to put charity into action.


The Gift Shift

This year of disasters, while enriching some charities, has created a crisis of its own for others -- and there's a fear it could be more than a temporary shift. In 2005, many donors have eschewed their customary charities and have given, again and again, to crisis-relief organizations.

Does this year's disaster-to-disaster giving pattern mark the beginning of a change in the way Americans give?

Already, there are indications that donors' priorities are changing. Some people say that after watching aid arrive late in many cases this year, they want relief groups to have money in hand so they can respond immediately. Plus, donors want their own giving to be predictable, so they're setting aside money in advance rather than being caught off guard by new crises.

At least one survey suggests a shift toward disaster-relief may be subtle: In a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll conducted this month, 8% of donors reported giving less to non-disaster-relief charities this year; 65% said they gave the same amount; and 15% reported increasing their giving to nonrelief charities.

[By Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal]

It Pays To Be Charitable

Gifts of stock Go for a Double Tax Break by donating appreciated stock. Gifts of stock have become increasingly popular for donors of all ages. You may be able to make a gift much larger than what you originally planned and benefit from the double tax savings as well
To learn more, click the following link: Stock

Gifts of real estate You may be surprised to learn that your personal residence, farm, vacation home, commercial property, or parcel of undeveloped land can make a tax-smart donation, allowing for substantial income tax deduction.
To learn more, click the following link: Real estate

Estate Planning If you have possessions, you have an estate. The disposition of your possessions when you die is called estate settlement. Deciding in advance how this will be done is known as estate planning. Yet, in the course of our busy lives, proper estate planning is often neglected due to a variety of reasons.
To learn more, click the following link: Estate Planning

Planned Giving The key feature of a planned gift is that it allows you (the donor) to benefit, as well as the charitable organization. In giving, you have the satisfaction that comes from knowing you've made a difference in the lives of others. But in fact, the best gift plans also improve the donor's financial and tax situation, often right away.
To learn more, click the following link: Planned Giving

Living Trust A living trust is an arrangement you create during your lifetime to provide for yourself and your family both before and after your death. You transfer assets to fund the trust and select a trustee (even yourself) to manage it.
To learn more, click the following link: Living Trust

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) If you're like many investors today, you may own appreciated assets, such as stock or real estate, that you are reluctant to sell because of the significant capital gains taxes you would owe. At the same time, you may be looking to increase your cash flow or diversify your holdings. That would mean selling those valuable assets, paying the applicable taxes and reinvesting at less than the asset's full value. Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma.
To learn more, click the following link: CRT


Giving, with impact

'Tis the season of the highest degree of individual giving -- the last quarter of the year -- in a year unlike any other in recent history.

Focusing on the devastation wrought by the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, the American public has donated a record sum to charities. In 2004, total giving reached a high of a quarter-trillion dollars, according to Giving USA; the two natural disasters each stimulated charitable giving of $1.5 billion to $2 billion from communities across the United States.

But the influx of contributions provides lessons on the accountability and impact of giving. At this time of year, prospective donors should apply these important guidelines on how best to channel charitable giving:
-- Give [to hands on organizations working] locally. After the … the South Asian tsunami, the media highlighted the large … international disaster-relief organizations. These large philanthropic organizations can certainly mobilize resources in all corners of the globe, but organizations in the regions affected may be better equipped to respond to the needs of the residents and their communities
-- Philanthropy isn't government. Philanthropy has an important role in providing nonprofits with the financial wherewithal to respond to the acute needs created by a disaster. But philanthropy is not a substitute for government and cannot do it alone.
-- Where philanthropy can help is by providing funds quickly and in a flexible manner. Charitable givers can provide general support for the nonprofit organizations in the region that tend to the needs of the community day in and day out and are surely to be strained by the emergency.
-- Disasters such as the South Asian tsunami .. are an opportunity to rekindle the bonds of community and connection. Times like these, when there is an unprecedented focus on giving, offer a teachable moment: Individuals of all ages can not only appreciate the warm glow of giving, but learn how to give so as to have the greatest impact.

[Excerpted from an article by James M. Ferris, The San Francisco Chronicle]


When Charity Begins in a Circle of Friends

Marsha Wallace, a labor and delivery nurse in Greenville, S.C., often volunteered at a health care clinic and donated to local charities, but she felt that she wasn't doing enough.

So three years ago she invited some friends to a potluck dinner. They were asked to bring an appetizer, a main course or a dessert - and their checkbooks.

More than 25 women attended, and they contributed $760 to a nonprofit organization that helps female war survivors. The dinner group gave itself a name, Dining for Women, and agreed to meet monthly, with each member donating the $30 she would have spent at a restaurant. (Eventually, Ms. Wallace scrapped the minimum donation because she worried that some women could not afford to attend.)

Now, every month, the donations, usually amounting to $400 to $500, are given to a variety of international nonprofit groups that help women and children. The club has grown to 115 members, with perhaps 15 or 20 showing up at each meeting. It has contributed a total of $19,000 to various charities, including the American Leprosy Missions and Habitat for Humanity. Donations have paid for two years of nursing school for an East African woman and started a $1,400 medical fund in Ethiopia.

This is an example of a Giving Circle, when Charity begins in a circle of friends. Giving circles attract people who are looking for ways to become involved in charities and to monitor the results of their donations.

There are now at least 220 circles in 40 states, according to a study last February by New Ventures in Philanthropy, an organization based in Washington. But the organization says that there are probably many more. Since 2000, circles have donated more than $44 million, the organization said.

[Excerpted from an article by Kristina Shevory, The New York Times]


Silicon Valley women without borders

Backed by rich and powerful Silicon Valley women, the world's largest global philanthropy fund for women's rights has hit a major milestone, raising $20 million in less than three years.

The Global Fund for Women celebrated the achievement during a San Francisco lunch at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a world away from where the group spends its money in developing countries to support women-run initiatives to improve their health, education and economic well-being.

Though it was billed as a celebration, many of the group's leaders also warned that ongoing wars, destabilized governments and growing fundamentalist movements around the world threaten to turn back gains women have made in places as diverse as Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

"It's a real fear,'' said Kavita Ramdas, president and CEO of the fund, which has doled out about $44 million since its founding in Palo Alto in 1987 by a former Hewlett Foundation executive.

Underscoring the point, Global Fund board member Sumaya Farhat-Naset, who works with Palestinian women in Birzeit. "Women's rights are not a priority,'' she said.

Recipients of grants from the Global Fund, which is now based in San Francisco, also told of their successes: How they had worked in Latin America to provide women access to safe abortions, helped broker peace talks in the African nation of Liberia, and were running education programs in Afghanistan, where the Taliban once ruled and banned girls from schools.

"Sixty percent of Afghan women are widows,'' after years of war, said Sakena Yacoobi, director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, who traveled to San Francisco for the event to thank fund leaders for their help. "We are training women to be teachers, others to sew, weave carpets'' so they can earn a living.

"The Global Fund is a venture capital firm for the world's women,'' added Ramdas. "Instead of the garage start-up, it's a kitchen start-up.''

Although a global fund, high-profile Silicon Valley women, several of whose fathers or husbands are household valley names, have been major benefactors.

Half of the $20 million is earmarked for a "Now or Never'' fund to quickly get grants to women facing the most urgent needs.

"We want to be able to spend the money quickly, not have it sit in an endowment,'' said Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of Apple Chairman Steve Jobs, who traveled earlier this year to Egypt on behalf of the fund. She co-chaired the $20 million campaign, along with Diane Jordan Wexler, a Palo Alto-based career coach. More than 1,200 donors, from Uzbekistan villagers to the Ford Foundation, came through.

The organization has been criticized for not funding U.S.-based programs. Ramdas says that there are 90 women-focused philanthropies working in the United States, and large foundations often overlook women-backed initiatives in developing countries.

"The Gates Foundation is not necessarily going to give money to fight HIV/AIDS to a group run by women,'' Ramdas said. ``We will.''

For more information, go to www.globalfundforwomen.org

[By Mary Anne Ostrom, San Jose Mercury]

Gates Give $84 Million to Help Prevent Infant Deaths

Focusing on a relatively forgotten corner of health care, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $84 million to two organizations working to prevent needless deaths of babies in the first few days of life.

Around the world, about four million newborns - about as many as are born in the United States annually - die each year from tetanus, pneumonia, asphyxia or low birth weight.

While death rates for young children have dropped substantially since 1960 because of better nutrition and more vaccinations, deaths of newborns have "remained stagnant," said Anne Tinker at the charity Save the Children, which received $60 million.

Save the Children's efforts will be concentrated in 18 countries while PATH, a Seattle-based charity that received $24 million, will use its share to run 17 projects in the two poorest states of India, which has nearly 30 percent of the world's newborn deaths.

[From an article by Donald G. McNeil Jr, The New York Times]


Follow The Money: $230 billion

This year migrant workers will send some $230 billion to their families back home. That capital is keeping many in the developing world afloat

On three continents, migrants and their families described how the transfers worked.

Nine years ago, Cornelio Zamora left his home in Zacapoaxtla, Mexico, paying a smuggler $2,500 to take him across the Rio Grande into the U.S. He had been unable to support his wife and four children on the $7 a day he earned as a bus driver.

Working as a house painter in San Jose, California, Zamora, 48, now sends about $700 a month home. His wife says she has based all family decisions — where to send the children to school, what house to live in — on Zamora's monthly earnings "on the other side."

In Mexico, the Zamora family home is another tangible indicator of the impact of remittances. Zamora's work in California has paid for a new three-bedroom house, the first his family has ever owned.

The changes his cash have brought to his family within one generation are dizzying; one daughter has trained as a nurse, another as a teacher, and his son as a radio technician. "The first time I wore shoes, I was 14 years old," Zamora says. "I don't want my family to go through that."

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Mali, Africa

Waly Diabira pats the cover on his bed in the cramped fifth-floor room he shares with two men in a red-brick dormitory building for immigrants near Paris' Left Bank. In 1950, his father, Mamadou Diabira, left their tiny village in Mali and caught a steamboat to Europe, where he worked as a street cleaner in Paris for about 25 years. Waly, a 32-year-old building cleaner, only got to know his father when he sneaked into France at 18. The migrant tradition has continued into the next generation, fueled by the same force that kept his father rooted in France for decades — the need to send money home.

In visits to migrants' hometowns, the impact on their families and communities is clear.

Waly's village of Ambadedi has sent thousands of migrants to Paris since his father Mamadou first headed there. Set atop the steep northern bank of the Senegal River, the village at first glance looks like countless others in West Africa. Goats and donkeys meander down the dirt lanes, and women scrub clothes in the river.

But Ambadedi has cherished luxuries that are absent from other remote parts of Mali. There is a generator that lights up most of the houses every night. A water tower feeds water to several collection points. And television antennas bristle from the rooftops of two-story concrete houses — a far cry from the mud hut in which old Mamadou was raised. Villagers have even started dreaming about building a bridge across the river to connect Ambadedi to the nearest highway, says Sekou Drame, Mamadou's brother-in-law, as he escorts a Time reporter back to the wooden pirogue that will ferry him across the river's muddy flow. "It depends on God," he says. "And our families in France."

In Paris, Waly is planning to return home in January to see his 2-year-old daughter for the first time, and to spend time with his wife. But he won't stay long. "Frankly, people would die there if we didn't work here," he says. Come spring, he will be back in Paris, cleaning offices, and changing the way the world spreads its wealth around.

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Foreign Remittances 60% Higher

Similar stories are multiplied millions of times across the world. And such tales are nothing new.

But the scale of money flows is new. Mass migration has produced a giant worldwide economy all its own, which has accelerated so fast during the past few years that the figures have astounded the experts. This year, remittances — the cash that migrants send home — is set to exceed $232 billion, nearly 60% higher than the number just four years ago, according to the World Bank, which tracks the figures.

Of that, about $166.9 billion goes to poor countries, nearly double the amount in 2000. In many of those countries, the money from migrants has now overshot exports, and exceeds direct foreign aid from other governments.

"The way these numbers have increased is mind-boggling," says Dilip Ratha, a senior economist for the World Bank and co-author of a new Bank report on remittances. Ratha says he was so struck by the figures that he rechecked his research several times, wondering if he might have miscalculated.

Indeed, he believes the true figure for remittances this year is probably closer to $350 billion, since migrants are estimated to send one-third of their money using unofficial methods, including taking it home by hand.

One reason for the growth in recorded remittances has its origins in the global war on terrorism. To stop terrorist networks using informal transfer systems like hawala in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia (where it's referred to as hundi), European and U.S. officials have cracked down on them. That has shifted payments to easier-to-track official channels.

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Poor Send More

In migrants' countries of origin, escalating desires — for things like better education and bigger homes — help drive the remittances.

Ironically, economists calculate that the poorer the migrants are, the more money they dispatch. "There is enormous social pressure to send money home," says Khalid Koser, a geography professor at University College London, who in October co-authored a report for the Global Commission on International Migration in Geneva, which researches governments' immigration policies. Koser found that many migrants scrape by in first-world cities, depriving themselves of basic comforts in order to "keep people alive" back home.

"There are many people sending 40% of their income in remittances," he says, adding that many families save to pay the passage of a migrant to richer parts of Asia, or to Europe or the U.S.

In Hong Kong, Endang Muna Saroh, 35, works as a nanny to two children in a comfortable residential neighborhood, and sends $200 home every month to her mother and 10-year-old son in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Indonesia receives recorded remittances such as this worth a total of $1.8 billion a year.) Yet like many migrants, Endang also saved hundreds of dollars to carry by hand to her family in August, when she flew home for her first visit in four years.

Ruhel Daked, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi, earns €1,300 a month working as a chef in Paris. Yet despite his modestly comfortable salary, he bunks with two other Bangladeshis in a dormitory building for immigrants, with one toilet shared among many men, because he says he has one goal: "To save! Save as much as I can. That is why I am here."

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Skills, Savings and Networks

Vital though the flow of remittances may be, it cannot, on its own, lift entire nations out of poverty. Those who study the impact of remittances argue that the money allows poor countries to put off basic decisions of economic management, like reforming their tax-collection systems and building decent schools.

Some migrants are now using their economic clout to perform work usually done by big aid organizations. Mali (Africa) Ambadedi's workers' association in Paris, for example, funds some village projects with its members' own earnings. But the association also solicits help from the French government and the European Union.

"We have a project under way to purify the village water supply," says Ibrahim Diabira, 55, who works in Paris as a building cleaner and helps run the village association in the French capital.

Elsewhere, host nations have created temporary legal work programs, in which migrants earn legal wages with benefits, before returning home. That way, migrants retain close links to their countries while developing skills abroad.

When they go back, they will take augmented skills, savings and networks.

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]


Africa's pleas for aid are ignored

To get a sense of Africa's unrelenting hunger, look no further than the fever-bright eyes of 17 severely malnourished infants languishing in a West African hospital.

Worse-than-normal food crises raging all but unaddressed in parts of Mali and elsewhere in Africa this year have focused new attention on the politics and geography of hunger across the world's poorest continent, as well as on how rich nations respond.

"Hot spots come and go due to crisis and drought, but the vast majority of (Africans) are just too poor to feed themselves when there's a slight disruption of their environment," said Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program.

"As you can see from Niger, you have a long period with nothing, then the camera crews arrive and it becomes a political issue. Then aid arrives," Smerdon said. Still, across Africa, "the vast majority of people are forgotten," he said.

One in three of Africa's 900 million people lack enough food each day, the United Nations said. African hunger is "a chronic problem, particularly in chronically impoverished places. It takes only something small to push people into the position where they need food aid," Smerdon said.

Eight of the 17 emaciated babies at the local hospital arrived from the city center where markets are full of food -- but many nearby residents are too poor to buy it.

[From an AP article written by Edward Harris]

5-year, $200 million fund to aid education in Africa

A 5-year-old partnership of major U.S. foundations dedicated to advancing higher education and development in Africa is broadening in size and ambition, committing to invest $200 million over the next five years.

The initiative includes more than $5 million for an eightfold increase in Internet bandwidth capacity for a consortium of African universities. Representatives of six multibillion-dollar philanthropies, including Chicago's John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, joined UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the Ford Foundation in New York.

In a statement, Annan, a native of Ghana, called the effort "an outstanding display of global citizenship."In May 2000, MacArthur, Ford, Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York formed the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. Since then, they collectively have given more than $150 million in support of selected universities in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and, more recently, Kenya.

The schools have been seen as agents of social, economic and political progress."This effort expands our commitment to the renaissance of African higher education and to its importance in Africa's future development," said Ford President Susan Berresford, in a statement."

African universities that combine excellent, world-class education with programs of practical training are vital to progress, and it is heartening to see them emerge," said Jonathan Fanton, president of MacArthur, which has been active in Nigeria since 1989.

[By Charles Storch, The Chicago Tribune]


U.S. Interest in Africa

For the United States, the balance sheet of what comes out of Africa far outweighs what goes back in. Oil, raw materials and the expansion of the free market are the principal reasons the US engages in Africa, anything else is pretty much incidental.

America will have nothing to do with the commitment to providing 0.7% of GDP (gross domestic product) for aid which the European powers have signed up to. The US will have nothing to do with Gordon Brown's International Finance Facility (IFF) that would use the sale of gold reserves to speed up the rate of aid delivery. In the same way as it blindly ignores the Kyoto targets on climate change, the US government is pursuing its own unilateral agenda on Africa and poverty reduction.

It's not as if Bush, who arrived in office as one of the least-traveled presidents, doesn't know where Africa is. He toured part of the continent in 2003, emphasizing the tough-love approach to poverty reduction, insisting on the entrenchment of democracy and on cleaning up state corruption.

Bill Clinton was the first US president to tour Africa while in office, and although he made large gestures about working with the continent, they amounted to very little in reality. Bush has actually delivered on promises - over the last three years the US aid to Africa has trebled.

Within the US itself, there is a perception that the world's superpower does deliver a lot for Africa. Survey after survey shows that Americans do care, do think that something should be done for Africa, do think that the US government is putting its shoulder to the wheel.

In sheer volume terms the world's largest economy is sending the largest amount of foreign aid to Africa, but as a proportion of national wealth only 0.16% of the US budget goes on aid, far short of the 0.7% of GDP that is the UN target.

[From article written by Torcuil Crichton in The Sunday Herald of Scotland]

Africa: Bush has More on His Mind Than Aid

The exploitation of Africa has a long and sordid history, dripping in blood and corruption and with enough blame and guilt to share between all the participants - Western governments, multinational companies and national leaders.

On trade the US still does extremely well from the plunder of Africa's raw materials.

The Bush administration's $15 billion commitment to AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, the biggest single pledge by any US administration, undoubtedly benefits America's pharmaceutical companies, but few seriously doubt that its main aim is to improve the well being of the people of Africa and the planet as a whole.

The over-riding American concern in Africa, as it is across the entire globe, is oil security. Oil, its extraction and supply, will always be the top priority for the US. The biggest returns, and the most important product out of Africa for the coming decades, will be petroleum.

The returns are not for Africans though. While 70% of Nigerians exist on a dollar a day, Shell continues to make megaprofits from oil drilling in the country, taking an estimated $30 Billion out of the ground since the 1950s.

At present 12% of US oil comes from Africa. And by 2015, when the UN's Millennium Goals to halve world poverty will be laughably incomplete, that proportion will have reached 25%.

To control the security of oil supply will, in all likelihood, require a large US military presence near the oilfields. Fortunately for the US most of West Africa's oilfields are offshore, and so less vulnerable to sabotage, insurrection or local instability.

With oil an economic weapon, there will be no shortage of regime changes, human rights abuses and privately sponsored coup attempts to control the flow of the most precious commodity. Poverty and the needs of the African population will take second place to US geo-political strategy. In the lexicon of aid and trade, the NEPAD agreements and the AGOA, there are only three letters that really matter to the US in Africa, they are O-I-L.

[From article written by Torcuil Crichton in The Sunday Herald of Scotland]

What Type of U.S. Aid to Africa?

A ridiculously small amount of US aid, far less than 1% of its total aid budget, is spent in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest place on Earth.

A lot of the United States’ aid funds go to Pakistan, to Israel, to countries that assist in the US's strategic interests. In that respect, foreign aid is, as it always was, a tool of foreign policy.

In stark contrast to Britain, which brought a wealth of diplomatic and technical know-how to post-colonial Africa, and France that bought influence throughout the continent with generous financial support, for most of the 20th century the United States brought only guns.

The US bears a historical responsibility for numerous regional and tribal conflicts that have destabilized countries such as Angola, Liberia, Congo and Somalia. Dictators have received billions of dollars of military aid and there are enough small arms in the continent for one in 20 people to have their own personal weapon. (In the two years September 2001-2003, the amount spent on military training for African officers has increased by over $2 million to $11.1m. )

Manganese for steel, cobalt for chrome and alloys, gold, fluorspar and germanium for industrial diamonds - Africa remains a treasure trove for the world's sophisticated economies. The US continues to rely on Africa for raw materials, and for American companies there are tremendous profits in the current trade agreements that continue the age-old exploitation of the continent by the rich world.

The trade and aid agreements reflect the continuing imbalance between Africa and the West.

"There is obviously poverty reduction rhetoric but when you look closely at the way aid is tied to contracts for US companies you can see that it is a different way of benefiting the domestic economy. It is being done for the benefit of US business and not for the poor of the countries receiving the aid," says Peter Hardstaff, head of policy at the UK-based World Development Movement.

[From article written by Torcuil Crichton in The Sunday Herald of Scotland]


U.S. Politics for Dummies

Well, after a number of posts of hard hitting facts and figures, how about a change of pace --a joke?

I first heard the following joke, attributed to the "California International Studies Project" at Stanford University, some months back but find that it still resonates today. It starts off like this:

Q: Daddy, why did we have to attack Iraq?
A: Because they had weapons of mass destruction, honey.

Q: But the inspectors didn't find any weapons of mass destruction.
A: That's because the Iraqis were hiding them.

Q: And that's why we invaded Iraq?
A: Yep. Invasions always work better than inspections.

Q: But after we invaded them, we STILL didn't find any weapons of mass destruction, did we?
A: That's because ... Click here for balance of joke


There’s No Business Like War Business

When the dust finally settles in Iraq, the United States may have unleashed virtually all of its state-of-the-art weaponry In the latest Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, the State Department predicts that U.S. arms sales will exceed $14 billion this year, the largest total in almost two decades.

"A tragic indicator of the values of our civilization is that there's no business like war business," said Douglas Mattern of the War and Peace Foundation.

One writer describes a "charmed circle of American capitalism, where Tomahawk and cruise missiles will destroy Iraq, while Bechtel Corporation [which once employed U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney] will rebuild the country. And stolen Iraqi oil will pay for it."

"U.S. weapons contractors are likely to gain significant profits because of this war," said Natalie Goldring, executive director of the Program on Global Security and Disarmament at the University of Maryland. "They'll be paid to replace the weapons that are used in the war.

A U.S. Apache Longbow helicopter, such as the ones brought down by Iraqi forces outside Baghdad, costs about $22 million.

The really big money for U.S. military contractors is in the annual Pentagon budget, which rose from $294 billion in 2000 to about $400 billion in 2003. At the current rate of growth, the budget is expected to hit $500 billion by 2010.

The Iraq war will also affect the global fight against poverty, because of the huge cost of the war and its aftermath.

It will also degrade health care and other needs in the United States.

"One-half of the world's governments spend more on the military than on health care", Mattern added. "The war business is the world's ultimate criminal activity."

[Written by Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service]


Military Spending Facts

According to a fact sheet published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, five countries account for over half the world's military spending.

The United States spends 36% of the total, followed by Russia with 6%, and France, Japan and the United Kingdom with about 5% each.

The 63 countries in Africa and Latin America together accounted for 5%.

The U.S. is also the largest supplier of arms, accounting for 44.5% of exports. Russia was the second largest supplier, with 17%.

Though the G-8 countries are worried about terrorism and internal conflicts, they are also responsible for more than 80% of all new weapons reaching the developing world, Amnesty International has declared. Amnesty said that armed groups such as al-Qaeda and countries such as India, Pakistan, Israel and Zimbabwe have acquired huge arsenals that can be traced back to G-8 nations.


The Ratio of Death and Life

Last May Congress easily approved another 76 Billion dollars for war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just think what that amount ($76,000,000,000) could buy if appropriated to save lives?

Here’s some figures (both in US dollars) to gain perspective on what the US government invests each year toward Death and Life internationally:

60,000,000,000 Total ANNUAL estimate of Iraqi/Afghan War
19,000,000,000 Total ANNUAL US foreign aid (*ODA)

So the ratio is: For every dollar that the U.S. Government spends on foreign aid, to help others internationally, more than 3 dollars is spent on the war. Is there something very wrong with this picture?

* ODA = Official Development Assistance


Can we at least PAUSE the War?

Did you know ...
EVERY MINUTE Two Million Dollars is spent worldwide for military purposes!

And guess which country spends the lion's share?

So even just a "pause" in the war industry would free up countless millions that could be used for other purposes. For example ...

Just 3 HOURS of military spending, $200 Million, could wipe out basic diseases that together kill 4 Million children every year.

Heck, the cost of building the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq in itself cost 3 times as much as what it would take to wipe out basic diseases that kill 4 Million children every year! (The price tag for the Embassy was just under $600 Million!)


Military Spending: What If

The cost of one Stealth bomber could supply all of India with clean drinking water. (Current population: 1 Billion people)

Just 10 DAYS of military spending, ($30 Billion), could provide a 10-year plan to provide clean water for the poor of the entire developing world.

Just 18 DAYS of military spending yearly could eradicate malnutrition worldwide.


The Relative Cost of the War

In a recent post on this site, the US Govt is applauded for pledging $510 million toward helping earthquake victms in Pakistan, a key ally in the battle against Islamist terrorism. (I promise I won’t dwell on the fact that the U.S. originally only pledged a paltry half a million dollars and later raised this to $50 million under pressure)
So one question might be “How does this large figure of $510 million -- to an ally that lost close to 80,000 lives in last month’s earthquake – compare to what has been spent on war?”
Let’s hold that thought and touch on American Government aid to the tsunami victims. The Bush administration originally committed 20 Million dollars to Tsunami relief. And after being called “stingy” then raised this pledge to 350 Million in aid. (No matter that adequate aid would have been in the tens of Billions of dollars.)
Ok, next question “How much has the War in Iraq cost the American taxpayers?”
Answer: Roughly 300 Billion Dollars. ---And this bill continues to increase at the rate of roughly 5 Billion a MONTH!

The Relative Cost of the War: Bottom Line

Let’s line the zeros up, to get these enormous figures in perspective:
MONTHLY cost of the war------------------------------------------------$5,000,000,000

Cost of "War on Terrorism" to date---------------------------------------$300,000,000,000

USA’s original commitment to Pakistan earthquake----------------------$500,000

USA boosted aid commitment under pressure-------------$50,000,000

Recent pledge by USA for Pakistan earthquake relief--- $510,000,000

Original USA commitment to Tsunami relief--------------------------- $20,000,000

Later pledge by USA to Tsunami relief------------------ $350,000,000

What can one conclude from the above? Well, I remember one journalist wrote, "If our leaders were as generous in helping people as they are in killing them, no one would ever go hungry."


What else could the U.S. spend War Money on?

Allow me to digress slightly from the theme of this site, international aid. This past week the statements of Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Democratic hawk, set off a debate in Congress and across the nation over the war in Iraq.

Regardless of the position you’ve taken on the war, let’s examine some facts.

Just under 2,100 Americans have been killed. Another 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been conservative estimates of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

Meanwhile we read that in Iraq unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce, and our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by the security situation. Insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year.

Murtha termed this war "a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion!" He went on to say, “Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on our present course."

When further asked, Rep. Murtha, a decorated combat hero, then went on to say: "I'm absolutely convinced that we're making no progress at all. . . . We have become the enemy; 80 percent of the people in Iraq want us out of there; 45 percent say it's justified to attack Americans. It's time to change direction."

So on that note, I’m going to dedicate a few posts to the subject. My angle: What else could the U.S. have done with the money spent on the war, or for that matter the money we'd save by pulling out at this point?

Maybe we should start with defining "How much has the so called War on Terrorism cost to date?" And then see what else is available for that price.


US pledge for $510 million in Pakistan aid

(CNN) Emotional campaigning and lobbying at an international donors conference yielded pledges of about $3 billion to assist Pakistan following last month's South Asian earthquake -- enough to cover the estimated expenses of assisting victims and rebuilding the stricken region.

The new pledges, from dozens of governments and financial institutions, brought the total amount pledged for the region to about $5.4 billion. In a report earlier this month, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank said the quake would cost Pakistan about $5.2 billion.

One of the largest offers came from the United States, which upped its pledge to $510 million -- tripling the original pledge.

The U.S. offer to Pakistan -- a key ally in the battle against Islamist terrorism -- includes $300 million in cash, $100 million in private donations and $110 million in military-supplied relief, said Andrew S. Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

"President Bush has asked five of the United States' most prominent corporate chief executive officers to lead a private fundraising effort for the newly-created South Asia Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction Fund," Natsios said at the conference. "I am confident that they will reach the $100 million goal they have set for their efforts."

More than 73,000 people in Pakistan died in the 7.6-magnitude quake on Oct. 8, according to Pakistani authorities. India blamed it for another 1,200 deaths in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

"Children are the main victims because they happened to be in the school at the time. The major brunt of the casualties has been taken by the children. They say a full generation has been lost," Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told delegates.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said many survivors are homeless and bracing for a bitterly cold, snowy Himalayan winter. He had previously chided nations for a weak financial response, telling reporters, "When so many people are affected, none of us should be indifferent."


U.N. summit focuses on spreading technology

A U.N. technology summit, attended by 16,000 people from 176 countries, was focused these past three days on bringing more communications, including Internet access, to developing countries where the cost has been too high and the technology too low-tech.

At the same time, several companies and organizations were unveiling their plans to bring the world closer and, in a sense, narrow the digital divide, by providing laptops that cost just US$100 (euro85) to portable, satellite-based radios that can pull in international programming from just about anywhere.

Delegates also said bridging the digital divide was more than just creating better access, lower prices and improved bandwidth.

Pakistan's Mahmood Kahn said increasing access to communications can help improve relations between regions and religions. "Information is not just an economic tool," Kahn told delegates in the main hall. "We need its infinite power to combat the rising tide of prejudice and hatred ... We will use the Internet and other media to heal wounds, to remove misperceptions, to promote dialogue, to foster trust between diverse communities and to reverse the onslaught of extremism and terrorism."

A text-book sized laptop boasting wireless network access and a hand-crank to provide electricity was unveiled by Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman of MIT Media Lab. The machines will sell for $100, making them accessible to millions of school-aged children worldwide, he said.

"These robust, versatile machines will enable children to become more active in their own learning," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters after the machine was unveiled.

Negroponte said the aim is to have governments or donors pick up the cost of the machines with the children who receive them having full ownership. The first shipments are due in February or March and will go to Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria.

[Associated Press]


Who gives to Charity and how much

"Research consistently shows that factors like an individual's age, income and level of education strongly predict giving," said Dr. Patrick M. Rooney, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Recent data from the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study, which now follows 7,500 American households, reveal that both the likelihood of giving and generosity increase with age.

Individuals ages 21 to 40 earning $50,000 to $100,000, for example, gave 1.9 percent of their annual income to charity, while people 65 and older in the same income bracket gave away 4.2 percent of their income.

And 92 percent of those 65 years and older made at least some donation, compared with 73 percent of people ages 21 to 40 in this income range.

[From an article by Richard A. Friedman, M.D., The New York Times]


Overturning the Gospels

There was a great piece in Harper's awhile back, "The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong'' by Bill McKibben, about how three out of four Americans believe the Bible teaches this: "God helps those who help themselves.''

The Gospel according to Mark? Luke? --Actually, it was Ben Franklin who came up with these words to live by.

"The thing is,'' McKibben writes, "not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical; it's counterbiblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong.''

Now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we have seen—and been unable to look away from— the direct result of this self-deception.

And if such tell-me-I'm-dreaming scenes as rats feeding on corpses in the streets—American streets—isn't enough to make us rethink the public-policy implications of turning the Gospel on its head in this way, then truly, God help us.

We as a nation—a proudly, increasingly loudly Christian nation—have somehow convinced ourselves that the selfish choice is usually the moral one, too. (What a deal!) You know how this works: It's wrong to help poor people because "handouts'' reward dependency and thus hurt more than they help. So, do the right thing—that is, walk right on by—and by all means hang on to your hard-earned cash.

Thus do we deny the working poor a living wage, resent welfare recipients expected to live on a few hundred dollars a month, object to the whopping .16 percent of our GNP that goes to foreign aid—and still manage to feel virtuous about all of the above.

Which is how "Christian'' morality got to be all about other people's sex lives—and incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us. Defending traditional marriage? A breeze. Living in one? Less so. Telling gay people what they can't do? Piece o' cake.

But responding to the wretched? Loving the unlovable? Forgiving the ever-so-occasionally annoying people you actually know? Hard work, as our president would say, and rather more of a stretch. A lot of us are angry at our public officials just now, and rightly so. But we are complicit, too; top to bottom, we picked this government, which has certainly met our low expectations.

The Bush administration made deep and then still deeper cuts in antipoverty programs, and we liked that. (The genius of the whole Republican program, in fact, is that it not only offers tax cuts and morality, but tax cuts as morality.

Americans do, I think, want to feel they are doing the right thing, and when I hear an opponent of abortion rights say, "I'm voting for the most vulnerable, the unborn,'' I have to respect that. Of course, we also like tax breaks and cheap gas and cranking the thermostat up and down—so when Republicans play to both our better angels and our less altruistic ones, it's not that tough a sell.)

But have Democrats loudly decried the inhumanity—or even the hidden, deferred costs of the Bush cuts in services to the most vulnerable among the already born? Heavens, no, with a handful of exceptions, such as former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, who spoke every single day of his campaign—and ever since—about our responsibilities toward those struggling just to get by in the "other America.''

Most party leaders are still busy emulating Bill Clinton, who felt their pain and cut their benefits—and made his fellow Dems ashamed to show any hint of a "bleeding heart.'' Clinton's imitators haven't his skills, though, so his bloodless, Republican Lite legacy has been a political as well as moral disaster.

I still dare to hope Democrats may yet remember why they are Democrats, though. And that would be a real come-to-Jesus moment.


Exactly how much is a Billion dollars?

In previous posts, I have touched on the cost of war, lamenting the fact that at least some of this could be so much better spent saving lives, instead of taking them, if used toward international aid. However you can’t let frustration get the better of you.

With this in mind, I am posting a humorous piece I ran across. One that does nevertheless make one very serious point – a visual on just how much money is spent on war.

A US dollar is about six inches long.

The moon, that large round thing in the night sky with no advertising on it, is roughly 238,000 miles from the earth, or 1,256,640,000 feet; that would be 2,513,280,000 dollars laid end-to-end. 2,513,280,000 is just over two-and-a-half Billion.

A billion (in the US) is a thousand million, or in other words, more than your take-home pay between now and the thirty-third century, not including tips.

Here's the next important number: the Iraq war costs around $6 billion a month.

Let us review. Every month, the United States spends enough money killing Arabs of various kinds so that, if we instead decided to paperclip all those dollars together, we could not only reach the moon, we could come all the way back again with another chain of dollars, and still have enough dollars left over to go all the way around the equator ($262,954,560) 3.8 times. And that is every month.

The sun is 93 million miles from Earth (that's a rough number, don't use this for navigational purposes) or 982,080,000,000 bucks. At least we haven't reached the sun yet, right, gang? Good news. We haven't reached the sun.

But we have spent enough dollars so far ($218,000,000,000 as of this writing) to get us over a fifth of the way there.

So was it worth the money to wage war on Iraq? Objectively speaking, are the people better off? I suppose so; under Saddam Hussein they lived in terror of his cruel dictatorial whims, whereas now they live in terror of everything else, but cruel dictatorial whims don't enter into it. I mean unless one were to characterize the American president at this time as a dictator. I wouldn't dare, myself, lest I be subjected to his cruel whim.

There are non-monetizable costs of war, too. A whole lot of people are dead that wouldn't otherwise be dead, for example. So from that standpoint, maybe not such a good idea. But we're talking about what matters: money.

Now let's say we have enough dollars lined up to get nearly a quarter of the way to the sun. Where are all these dollars coming from? You can't slip that kind of loot out of mom's purse. These dollars are coming from foreign governments and financial institutions. The USA has borrowed all this money from people that don't even use dollars at home!

Since G. W. Bush took office (and he did take it), his government has borrowed $1.05 Trillion. That is to say, over one thousand Billion.

Remember how many a Billion is? $1.05 trillion is more than the total borrowed by every administration between 1776 and 2000 ($1.01 trillion). The mind implodes.

Half of this nation's debt in 224 years. --The other half since Junior Bush got the top job.

Remember how far away the sun is? We have spent enough dollars to get us all the way to the sun with plenty to spare for sunscreen.

[By Ben Tripp, CounterPunch]


Donors Avoid Latin America in Giving Aid

When Hispanic groups across the country were asking for donations for victims of Hurricanes Wilma and Stan, they often promise contributors one thing: The governments of Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador will not get their hands on the money.

Many Hispanics in the U.S. are afraid corrupt officials in Latin America will skim donations, and they hesitate to contribute, some volunteers say.

The two storms that slammed Central America brought into sharp focus a trend among U.S.-based development organizations and Hispanic community groups - when disaster strikes, many groups send money directly to community organizations in the affected countries.

"If we were to mention the Guatemalan consulate, our people wouldn't donate anything," said Marta Barrera, a Guatemalan immigrant who is both sending cash and leading collection efforts at St. Elizabeth Catholic parish in Oakland. Barrera's church is sending $5,000 directly to its private-sector counterparts in the Central American nation.

The approach gained popularity after Hurricane Mitch, the 1998 storm that killed at least 9,000 Central Americans and led to widespread allegations of government corruption and misuse of international aid.

During reconstruction in El Salvador, donors criticized the governing party for distributing clothes with party logos to victims. In Guatemala, developers hired by the government allegedly failed to do the work, leaving thousands homeless.

Officials in those countries have repeatedly denied allegations of corrupt handling of international aid.

Philanthropy experts say changing donation practices involving Latin America are part of a worldwide trend, as scandals like the U.N. oil-for-food debacle in Iraq and problems with food donations to Africa have made donors more skeptical of governments.

"We are in an era where individual giving is suspicious of government reliability in general," said Richard Marker, a philanthropy professor at New York University and a national philanthropy consultant. "Even in the States, if you were going to donate to Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, would you write a check to the government or a local organization in New Orleans?"

[Excerpted from an article by Peter Prengaman, The Associated Press]


Aid lacking for Africa's hunger crisis

With famine looming in Southern Africa, CARE hopes this month to distribute seeds and fertilizer to 20,000 hungry farming families in Malawi in an effort to ensure they don't face another bleak season next year.

But the international relief and development organization has so far raised only a quarter of the half-million dollars it needs to fund the effort. That means only 5,000 families will receive help as planting gets under way this month.

"The problem we are now encountering is that there are so many disasters happening in the world that for a slow-growing disaster like the one we now have in Southern Africa, it's more difficult to capture media attention as well as donor interest," said Jean Michel Vigreux, CARE's regional director for Southern Africa.

A surge in natural disasters in the past year--including the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. and a major earthquake in Pakistan--has tightened competition for aid donations and left many of the world's less-noticed trouble spots struggling for the help they need.

Africa is experiencing its most widespread hunger in decades, with the World Food Program and other aid agencies struggling to feed 43 million people from Niger to Malawi.

Farming in Southern Africa, in particular, has been devastated by a virulent combination of drought, AIDS and, in nations such as Zimbabwe, economic mismanagement that threatens a region once able to feed not only itself but its neighbors.

"The greatest humanitarian crisis today is not in Pakistan, the tsunami region or Darfur, though they are all severe," said James Morris, executive director of the World Food Program, at a recent food crisis meeting in New York. "It is the gradual disintegration of social structures in Southern Africa."

Finding money to help hungry Africans, however, is increasingly difficult. A sense that Africa's problems are intractable has eroded donor eagerness to help in the region, and gradually growing hunger is a tough sell compared with compelling images of earthquake-shattered villages, hurricane-flooded homes and Asian towns wiped out by giant waves.

"Hunger crises tend to be a more slow-moving thing. They creep up on you and people's eyes glaze over. But that doesn't mean people stop dying," said Michael Huggins, a spokesman for WFP in Southern Africa.Seven months ago, the WFP launched an appeal for $400 million to feed hungry Southern Africans until the next harvest, in April 2006. So far only $250 million has arrived.

"Now it's coming to crunch time, and we're still short $150million and the window is closing," Huggins said.

Because shipping food in from abroad can take months, the shortfall means the agency may not be able to feed many of the region's hungry, even if new donations begin arriving. The organization has appealed for international donations of cash, rather than food, in an effort to try to buy excess food in the few parts of Southern Africa that have it for sale. But as the hungry season approaches, prices for the available grain are rising sharply.

"Nobody has the purchasing power to buy what is available anymore," Huggins said. That means the organization probably will be able to feed only the most desperate of the 10 million hungry people in Southern Africa, particularly toward the end of the lean months.

The aid shortfall is particularly bad news in a region struggling with the world's worst AIDS epidemic. Without adequate food, those infected with HIV generally develop AIDS and die much more rapidly, and those on anti-retroviral treatment often cannot continue taking the drugs, doctors say.

That means the region may be faced next year with tens of thousands of new orphans and that HIV-infected farmers may be too sick to farm next year, reducing the chances for a recovery in production."It's a very complex humanitarian crisis in southern Africa and it's not going away," Huggins said.

To try to close the shortfall in donations, aid organizations are appealing to new donors, including corporations and oil-rich countries that have benefited from a surge in oil prices.Corporations, however, appear to prefer donating primarily to high-profile disasters.

"It seems they have decided it's a good opportunity to brand themselves as good corporate citizens," he said.

Aid agencies say some of the responsibility for mitigating Africa's seemingly endless hunger crises also lies with its governments. Zimbabwe, for instance, has millions hungry this year in part because President Robert Mugabe has handed much of the country's farmland to cronies uninterested in farming, and because his economic policies have nearly bankrupted the nation and left it short of diesel fuel to run its tractors.

Elsewhere, governments have lagged in introducing drought-resistant crops and pushing farmers to plant a wider variety of food species. Until that happens, "we're going to have these problems," Huggins warned.

[Article by Laurie Goering, Chicago Tribune]


Some Disasters Compel Us to Give

Disaster strikes -- a hurricane, a flood, a tsunami, a terrorist attack. People die. Buildings are destroyed. Communities are devastated. What do you do? If you're like millions of Americans, you reach for your wallet. And you give. And give. And give.

More than $2 billion in private donations for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. More than $1.5 billion for those affected by the devastating tsunami that swept through Southeast Asia at the end of last year. And donations to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit $2.2 billion.
But what is it that triggers that "must-give" button in our heads? And why do some disasters push that button when others don't?

Last month's earthquake in Pakistan, which killed more than 80,000 people -- many times the number who perished in Hurricane Katrina -- has brought in a mere $45 million in donations from Americans.

International and domestic relief groups that deal with disasters say they sense that certain circumstances can trigger an outpouring of donations. Although they emphasize that they are constantly surprised by what galvanizes Americans (the massive giving to the tsunami in far-off Southeast Asia, for example), here's what they generally find:

"Natural" disasters beat manmade disasters. In other words, victims of hurricanes and tsunamis generally attract more donations than victims of war and other politically caused crises.

Oxfam America, for example, a relief group that works in 26 countries, received $250 million in donations for tsunami victims -- more than enough for that effort, said Nathaniel A. Raymond, spokesman for the relief organization.

But it is struggling to raise funds to help the millions of victims of the civil strife in the Darfur region of Sudan, where some 2 million people have been forced from their homes and into camps, and for the civil war in northern Uganda that has killed tens of thousands and driven more than 1.6 million people off their farms.

Sudden disasters beat slow-moving crises. Who among us didn't feel spurred to take action while watching people beg for help outside the Superdome and on the overpasses in New Orleans after Katrina?

A sense of urgency mobilizes donors.

"People's lives are clearly at stake, and it creates a strong impulse to give," said Bill Strathmann, chief executive of Network for Good, a charitable Web site that allows people to donate and volunteer to more than 1 million charities. "Americans want to help, not stand by feeling helpless."

But plodding disasters, such as the decades-long devastation of the AIDS crisis or the methodical lethality of a famine, often don't trigger such an outpouring.

"With famines, that's so slow and gradual," said Patrick M. Rooney, director of research for the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which has studied patterns of charitable giving over the past 50 years.

"It's horrific, but it happens very slowly. If you were there one day and back the next day, there wouldn't be much difference."

The United Nations says hunger has killed 6 million people worldwide this year -- almost 25 times as many as died in the tsunami.

But relief groups labor to raise money for efforts to resolve problems like that -- such as for the victims of the widespread famine and drought in the West African nation of Niger, where 2.5 million people face food shortages after their crops were ravaged by drought and locusts.

TV counts. Spectacular videos that allow viewers to imagine themselves at the scene make a huge difference. Those scenes of the World Trade Center as the planes struck, footage of the giant waves washing away people and buildings in Southeast Asia, and the fury of Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans all galvanized donors.

With these three events, "you had videographic evidence of what the locality looked like before the incident, during the incident and after the incident," said Rooney.

Timing counts. Tsunamis roared through Southeast Asia on Dec. 26, 2004, right when U.S. families were watching television, many of them surrounded by holiday presents. "When you see the juxtaposition of that affluence and abundance versus those children who had been orphaned by the tsunami and whole communities destroyed . . . that certainly pulled on our hearts and philanthropic impulses," said Rooney.

Personal experience helps. As the United States becomes increasingly multicultural, so is the response to large-scale tragedies. Indian and Sri Lankan communities in the United States raised tens of millions of dollars for tsunami relief, while Muslims are mustering the same kind of effort for victims of last month's earthquake in Pakistan.

"I think it's difficult for people to imagine themselves in a remote village in Pakistan," said Rhinehart. However, she adds: "It doesn't make the need any less."

Simple beats complex. Relief groups try to communicate to donors that the world is complicated and that positive change to crises such as poverty and religious and ethnic strife doesn't come quickly, easily or cheaply.

Indeed, while people like to feel they have made an immediate difference in the lives of the desperate, relief groups urge Americans not to forget that some solutions take years, not days.
Disaster giving doesn't supplant donations to other causes. Contrary to popular belief, Americans generally don't reduce giving to their regular charities when they send off some change to an unexpected disaster here or abroad, researchers said.

That's because individual giving to disasters tends to be small -- three-quarters of the people who donated to a Sept. 11 charity gave $100 or less -- so people can comfortably keep up their other giving, said Rooney.

[Excerpted from an article by Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post]


Political Virus - Avian Flu

Our political leaders keep telling us to fear the avian flu, and in one sense they're right: We should all be scared to death about how much damage our political leaders will do responding to the avian flu.

No one really knows how great the avian flu threat is.

Public-health officials have been warning about it ever since new studies suggested that the infamous 1918 flu outbreak originated in birds.

Warning is what these folks get paid to do. Other experts argue that 1918 was a fluke and that the current avian virus is unlikely to become a mass killer of humans.

[Excerpt from Wall Street Journal editorial]

Commentary: It amazes me how the media can be so obviously manipulated by the government and drug companies to scare the population.

Here’s an interesting opinion on this by Dr. Joseph Mercola:
The popular media continues to reinforce unbased fear. A former biotech director at the FDA states that the avian flu virus can jump from birds to humans and produce a fatal illness in 50% of those infected.
50% fatality rate sounds pretty scary. What the experts fail to explain is how these numbers were derived. Did they examine everyone who contracted the avian flu and use those numbers or did they examine the sickest of the sick who had come down with the avian flu and determine the mortality from there?
Of course it was the latter, and from the 60 people who have died from this in THIRD world countries we are being told that anywhere from 200,000 AT BEST to two million people at worst will die from the avian flu.
This is shoddy science at best and beyond belief that any reputable scientist could get away with such nonsense.
Most of the people who acquired this infection were bird handlers who were in continuous contact with these sick birds. Does anyone in their right mind envision similar circumstances in the US?
And how do they make the giant leap of faith that 60 deaths will translate to 2 million or even 200,00 deaths in the US from a virus that does NOT readily spread from birds to humans, or humans to humans?
Research like this would typically be thrown in the trash if it did not strongly support some ulterior purpose.