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.


Fearing Avian Flu, U.S. Congress Scrambles

In late September, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt told members of Congress in a classified closed-door meeting that bird flu could conceivably kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Within 24 hours, a band of Senate Democrats jumped on the issue, cobbling together a $3.9 billion legislative proposal to buy and stockpile huge new quantities of vaccines and antiviral medications. Only a few hours later, their proposal passed the Senate on a voice vote, with almost no debate or discussion.

The hasty vote is just one sign that legislators in Washington are scrambling. The price tag of an avian-flu plan has now jumped as high as $8 billion under the latest Senate proposal, with President Bush also proposing a multibillion-dollar spending plan.

Separately from the avian-flu proposals, a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, includes broad liability protections for drug companies that produce "countermeasures" to public-health threats. These companies would also get tax rebates and exclusive market access for their drugs. The bill would create a new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, with a $1 billion-a-year budget, that would fund companies with promising vaccines and other biodefense drugs.

The Gates Foundation, among others, has also studied the idea of promising companies a huge payment if they invent, say, a malaria vaccine that can be used in poor countries. The attraction of the idea is that it limits the potentially stifling involvement of government or charities in the nitty-gritty of drug discovery.

[Excerpted from an article by Bernard Wysocki Jr., The Wall Street Journal]

Over $7 billion to counteract Avian Flu -- if it ever arrives

President Bush is sounding the alarm and spending big -- up to $7.1 billion -- to counteract avian flu ---if it ever arrives.

[Editor’s note: $7.1 billion dollars to counteract a flu that has claimed about 60 lives worldwide in the past two years?]

But another devastating disease is killing 1.2 million people a year with little notice or rich-country concern.

It is malaria, a centuries-old malady largely stamped out in developed countries thanks to efficient health systems, insecticides and pills. The mosquito-borne disease remains a top cause of death in sub-Sahara Africa, where it prolongs poverty and kills up to 2,000 children younger than 5 every day.

Pervading helplessness goes with malaria. Africa's damp heat and well-adapted breed of mosquito are devastatingly perfect in spreading the disease in the countryside far from most clinics and doctors. The insects and the disease itself have mutated past once-effective treatments. Many adults live with re-infection, enduring the chills and aches that disrupt jobs and family life. Malaria is as effective as any famine or war in deepening the region's poverty.
That's why the decision by the Gates Foundation to spend $258.3 million on medical research is welcome. The United Nations and the G-8 countries also have pledged to do more.

But official programs aren't enough. Much of the Gates money will go to a breakthrough idea -- a vaccine that will cut infection rates sharply. The foundation is working with giant drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, which promises to keep the cost low enough to inoculate millions of African children.

Malaria shots won't solve it all. Corrupt rulers, stagnant economies, HIV and tuberculosis are crushing Africa's chances to improve. But weakening malaria's grip would be a powerful sign that science and pinpoint intervention can make a difference.

[Editorial in San Francisco Chronicle]

Commentary: Think about it. $7 - 8 billion dollars being allotted to counteract a flu that has claimed [only] about 60 lives worldwide in the past two years?

What of this flu epdidemic that supposedly might come? There have been three influenza pandemics in the past 100 years. Another "moderate" pandemic, comparable to those in 1957 and 1968, would kill 209,000. If it was a very "severe" pandemic comparable to that in 1918, it potentially could cause 1.9 million deaths unless optimal preventive or treatment measures wee in place.

Probably more realistic as a figure though, consider the fact that as a normal course of events, every year 36,000 die in the States as a result of regular seasonal flu.

Now as far as this Avian Flu concern, dare we point out that despite all the media attention and speculation, it's all about an epidemic that has not yet happened! And chances are, won't!
$7 - 8 billion dollars to counteract a flu that has so far contributed to the death of 30 people a year.

Meanwhile Malaria, a totally preventable disease, is –right now-- killing 1.2 million people a year --2,000 children every day -- with very little rich-country concern.


Vaccine Campaign Major Strike Against Measles in Africa

Measles deaths in African children have plummeted 60 percent in five years thanks to broader vaccination efforts, new data show, and the effort is going so well that some public-health experts believe it may become feasible to eradicate the disease worldwide.

Vaccination campaigns that began in 2000 have saved the lives of just over 1 million children in the part of Africa south of the Sahara desert, according to the World Health Organization, and experts expect that number to hit 1.2 million by the end of this year.

Media mogul Ted Turner, who created a foundation that has played a key role in the efforts, announced a new grant of $20 million to extend the vaccination campaigns. The American Red Cross, one of the leaders in the effort known as the Measles Initiative, said it would broaden the vaccination efforts to include some Asian countries where measles is a lingering problem.

"This is one of the true public-health success stories of modern times," said Stephen B. Blount, global health coordinator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "The Measles Initiative has achieved an enormous amount in just the last five years."

Despite the gains, measles still kills more than 400,000 children a year, half of them in Africa. The highly contagious disease -- which spreads by respiratory droplets and causes high fever, a rash and other symptoms -- kills about 5 percent of children who get it in poor countries. A vaccine that costs less than $1 per dose has been available since 1963, and its widespread use has virtually eradicated measles in high- and middle-income countries.

Numerous speakers at this week's conference called for greater efforts to combat such problems. "It's immoral for people to die like flies in countries that are poor of diseases that kill no Americans," former president Bill Clinton said in a recent question-and-answer session.
Routine use of measles and other vaccines has been rising in Africa, thanks to the efforts of a global vaccine alliance funded in large measure by the Gates Foundation.

The effort involves massive campaigns, lasting several days apiece, to give every child in a country a measles shot. Lately, the program has also been distributing sleeping nets that protect children from mosquitoes, which can carry malaria.

A program led by former president Jimmy Carter is on the verge of eradicating Guinea worm disease, a dreadful ailment that primarily afflicts small regions of Africa.

[Excerpted from an article by Justin Gillis, Washington Post]


Six Foundations Commit $200 Million to Higher Education in Africa

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan joined the presidents of six of the largest U.S. foundations in announcing a $200 million commitment by the foundations over the next five years to further strengthen higher education in seven African nations.

The investment by the foundations includes more than $5 million that will enable a consortium of African universities to obtain eight times the amount of Internet bandwidth available to them as recently as two years ago. The cost will be less than one-third the rate paid by most African institutions. The consortium has entered into an agreement with Intelsat, a global satellite operator, to provide the bandwidth.

The announcement represents a significant renewal of support for African universities from the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, which was originally launched in 2000 by Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ford, MacArthur and Rockefeller Foundations.

Over the past five years, the foundations contributed more than $150 million to build core capacity and support special initiatives at universities in six nations: Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. Kenya has joined as the seventh nation this year.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have now joined the partnership as contributors.

To catapult more women into leadership roles, over $10 million in academic scholarships have been awarded to almost 1000 students attending universities in four African countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. In Uganda, Makerere University has worked with the government to implement hands-on programs to increase the quantity and quality of trained public servants, including a novel master's program in public health aimed at supplying the country's districts with new health systems managers.

Commenting on the progress underway at many African universities, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation said, "Knowledge, innovation and talent are critical currencies needed to thrive in today's interconnected world, and Africa's universities are increasingly looked upon to generate the ideas and talent necessary to address Africa's challenges, on Africa's terms."

"The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa represents our commitment to Africa's next generation of leaders, who deserve an exemplary education to prepare them to help set the course for their nations' futures," said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation. "We expect the universities in which we invest to become the foundation of a higher education network that will serve all of Africa for decades to come."


Giving Back A Beatle's Work

The wife and son of the late Beatle George Harrison have given $1 million to UNICEF to create a new fund to aid children who are victims of wars, natural disasters and other emergencies.
UNICEF, a nonprofit agency of the United Nations that focuses on children, will collect and distribute the money raised for the fund, named for Mr. Harrison.

The money donated to the new fund by Olivia Harrison, 58 years old, and her son, Dhani, 27, came from the private Material World Charitable Foundation, which Mr. Harrison created in 1973.

Ms. Harrison says that shortly before his death from cancer in November 2001, her husband told her he was frustrated because he wouldn't have enough time to finish planning his philanthropy. "He was very specific that he wanted his legacy to benefit others in the form of giving away money," says Ms. Harrison. "But when your health is failing, you're dealing with things day-to-day." She says she told her husband that he would have to trust her.

[Brief of article by Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal]


Entrepreneurship can drive Social Good

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are prime examples of the newly minted billionaires who also believe entrepreneurship can drive social good.

Both 32, their wealth has soared to $14 billion each in little more than a year. At the launch of the online giant's initial public offering last year, they said the Google Foundation might someday "eclipse Google itself" in world impact.

Last month, they poured $90 million into the newly launched foundation to be given to groups such as TechnoServe in Norwalk, Conn. Among its ventures, TechnoServe will sponsor a contest in Ghana whose winners will get start-up financing.

Microsoft's Gates is taking a different approach, investing money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation into partnerships with pharmaceutical firms that otherwise might not pursue cures with little profit potential. This week's $258 million in grants follow $3.6 billion for global research and development and other efforts since the foundation's launch in 2000.

Social entrepreneurship is also taking place in smaller ways.

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen launched a $5 million venture philanthropy arm in 2000 that's financing New England start-ups to boost the state's rural economy. The Barred Rock Fund's investments include Vermont Mystic Pie in Chester, Vt., a baker creating a market for Vermont apples, and jobs producing them.

[Excerpted from an article by Jim Hopkins, USA TODAY]


Microfinance's Role in Social Entrepreneurship

How did French-born Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, uneasy with sudden wealth, decide to become a high-profile champion of microfinance's role in social entrepreneurship?

Omidyar (pronounced "oh-MID-ee-ar") says that the more than 700,000 eBay users who now support themselves part time or full time as online merchants are a prime example of "economic self-empowerment."

About 18 months ago, after learning about microfinance, the Omidyars revamped their philanthropic operation, the Omidyar Network, to invest in for-profit ventures alongside traditional grants to non-profit groups.

The Omidyars have not abandoned traditional philanthropy — giving to charities such as the Red Cross. "I just think the largest potential is in thinking about business as having a social impact," he says.

Housed in Silicon Valley's Redwood City, the Omidyar Network has $400 million in assets and 37 full-time staffers. Before Friday's announcement, it had plowed $15 million into microfinance ventures, including Grameen.

[Grameen was launched about 30 years ago in rural Bangladesh by an economics professor. It now has 3.7 million borrowers, virtually all women. Repayment rates are 95% to 98%, says Grameen Foundation USA, the bank's U.S. affiliate.]

Omidyar figured microfinance needed a big push to prove its profitability and attract really big bucks from Wall Street. "In order to get a large-scale global effort, you need a lot of capital," he says. In other words, "microcredit needs IPO-level capital to demonstrate its true potential as a business," says David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas.

And that, of course, is Omidyar's aim with his $100 million gift.

"Who says philanthropy has a monopoly on making the world a better place?" he says. "There are lots and lots of businesses that make the world a better place by their very existence."
Now, with Friday's announcement, he hopes to prove it.

[Excerpted from an article by Jim Hopkins, USA TODAY]


Ebay founder takes lead in social entrepreneurship

Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, one of the world's richest men, is betting to ease one of the world's most daunting problems: Poverty.

Omidyar, who started eBay 10 years ago, announced Friday that he is donating $100 million for a new Tufts University program to generate millions of tiny loans, some as small as $40, to finance entrepreneurs trying to escape poverty in India, Bangladesh and other poor countries.

The gift is a big endorsement of social entrepreneurship — a field of growing interest for the new generation of technology entrepreneurs. The shift could recast traditional philanthropy dominated by non-profits such as the Ford Foundation built on Old Economy wealth

The new entrepreneurs, impatient to resolve global problems more quickly, are applying the very business models that made them rich at eBay, Microsoft, Google and America Online to battle the most vexing issues, from poverty to childhood disease. "We ought to be looking at business as a force for good," Omidyar said in an interview.

Other tech entrepreneurs are making similar moves. Microsoft's Bill Gates just announced $258 million to help drug giant GlaxoSmithKline and others defeat malaria, a disease killing 2,000 African children daily.

Google's founders last month said their planned $1 billion in philanthropy would include backing entrepreneurs in places such as western Africa.

Yet the $100 million from eBay Chairman Omidyar and his wife, Pam, both 38, stands out for several reasons. It's a record dollar commitment by an individual to the microfinance industry, he says.

The industry began about 30 years ago in rural Bangladesh when economics professor Muhammad Yunus launched what is now Grameen Bank. It has 3.7 million borrowers, virtually all women, relying on the bank's nearly 1,300 branches covering 46,000 villages. Repayment rates are 95% to 98%, says Grameen Foundation USA, the bank's U.S. affiliate.

Since Grameen's launch, a network of other microlenders — as many as 10,000 — has sprung up worldwide, lending about $24 billion annually, says the Microcredit Summit Campaign, funded partly by Omidyar. Over the next 10 years, he expects the Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund could unleash $1 billion in loans, many to women, as capital is repaid, then lent again. That could attract billions more from Wall Street.

It is the biggest — though not the last — such gift from a man with very deep pockets: Omidyar, with $10 billion, ranks No. 18 on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans.

Omidyar's capitalist approach to philanthropy could encourage other wealthy entrepreneurs from his generation to follow a similar trail, says Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, a charity trade group whose members include stalwarts such as the American Red Cross. "These guys broke the business mold and, in a way, they are trying to break the social-compact mold as well," Aviv says.

Omidyar's gambit is not guaranteed. For decades, do-gooders have thrown billions at programs meant to raise living standards for the world's 3 billion poor, many living on far less than $1 a day. "We're talking about deep, intractable problems," says Gene Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

While Grameen Bank has been successful, few have tried what Omidyar seeks on such a big scale: luring risk-averse Wall Street to invest in entrepreneurs such as Bhagyamma Vadla, 26, in the Andhra Pradesh province of southern India. She started a buffalo-milk dairy and clothes-making business with four loans totaling $674 over the past four years, says Grameen Foundation USA. She now earns $2.44 a day, nearly four times what she earned before the loans.

[Excerpted from an article by Jim Hopkins, USA TODAY]


International funding down by most denominations

While support of international missions appears to strengthen religious denominations, such funding has dropped over the last 80 years, a new report says.

In 2003, denominations spent an average of 2 cents of every dollar donated by congregations on international mission projects, down from 7 cents in the 1920s, the report says.

Empty Tomb, a Christian nonprofit research group based in Champaign, Ill., surveyed 28 denominations representing about 146,000 congregations for its State of Church Giving report.

Half the denominations surveyed lost membership between 1968 and 2003, the report says.

Growing denominations showed a higher level of support for international missions at 2.8 percent of donated dollars, and shrinking groups showed lower-than-average support of less than 1 percent.

Americans donated 1.12 percent of their income to charity in 2003, with more than seven in 10 of those dollars going to religious organizations, the report says.

Source: Philanthropy Journal


Saving One Life At a Time

Six million children--and even more adults--die unnecessarily every year. Good people all over the world are doing their best to save them. You can too

We make a living by what we get, Churchill said, but we make a life by what we give.

And to save a life? If you're Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, you give fantastic sums of money, more than $1 billion this year alone. But he also gives the brainpower that helped him make that money in the first place, hunting down the best ideas for where to fight, how to focus, what to fund.

If you're a rock star like Bono, you give money. But you also give the hot white lights that follow you everywhere, so that they shine on problems that grow in shadows.

If you're Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, you raise money--but you also give the symbols of power and the power of symbols: two men, old enemies, who got over it because the needs are so pressing that they now work together. It's a model for unlikely partnerships of the kind that progress demands, partnerships among doctors and pastors and moguls and lawyers and activists and tribal chiefs and health ministers and all the frontline angels of mercy everywhere.

We Americans like to see ourselves as a generous people, but the rest of the world sees us differently. Among advanced countries, the U.S. ranks last in foreign aid development giving as a percentage of national income.

The distinctive generosity of Americans is more private than public, countless gifts of time and money--but 98% of that money stays here at home, in part because donors could never be sure whether their money would actually land where it was needed and be used well once it got there.

2005 has been a special test. First the tsunami hit just before New Year's-- 240,000 lives lost, flooding and mudslides killed hundreds in Guatemala, and an earthquake killed 80,000 in Pakistan. We were reminded what disaster feels like here at home, and we raised $1.7 billion to help hurricane victims.

This is the year Americans got a real-time crash course in all kinds of relief efforts, what governments can do, what charities can do, what heroes can do when they have the resources they need. In a year when we grieved for the people we could not save, maybe we search harder for those we can.

You can't stop an earthquake; but you can stop malaria, say the experts, if you just spend the money to do it. And malaria is like an earthquake that kills more than 80,000 every month.

The "we're safe, it's far away" illusion has died; the sense of being stalked by a disease is now felt in rich countries as well as poor, and we find we have something in common with people who live with such fear every day.

[From an article by Nancy Gibbs, TIME magazine]


International Giving by U.S. Foundations

Annual foundation funding for international programs reached $3 billion for the fourth year in a row, despite an economic downturn, terrorist attacks, and the launch of an ongoing war on terror, according to the New York City-based Foundation Center with the support and collaboration of the Council on Foundations in Washington, DC.

As recently as 1998, grants for U.S.-based and overseas international projects totaled only $1.6 billion. Critical factors in the consistently high level of giving in recent years include the presence of new international funders on the scene—ranging from the multi-billion-dollar Bill & Melinda Gates and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations, to numerous smaller independent and corporate foundations and an increasing number of community foundations—and increased giving by many established funders.

Nearly eight out of ten believe that international giving is now more difficult due to a more demanding and uncertain regulatory environment. Among their concerns are Executive Order 13224, which prohibits transactions with organizations deemed to be associated with terrorism, and certain provisions of the Patriot Act. In addition, nearly 70 percent feel that the war on terrorism makes overseas funding more difficult due to increased security risks.

"International grantmakers are facing a period of prolonged uncertainty," noted Loren Renz, vice president for research at the Foundation Center and principal author of the report. "A marked increase in the number of international funders since the late 1990s is being tempered by greater caution in response to new post-9/11 funding guidelines."

"Foundations are the face of a generous and compassionate America internationally," said Dorothy S. Ridings, past president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. "Increased funding contributes to efforts to discourage terrorism, raise living standards, improve human rights, and build democracy and civil societies."

Asia has displaced Western Europe as top recipient of overseas funding, accounting for more than 23 percent of giving.

Source: fdncenter.org The Foundation Center's mission is to strengthen the nonprofit sector by advancing knowledge about U.S. philanthropy.