Not so smart when it comes to the Middle East

The U.S. government, which wants no part of a cease-fire until Israel is given every opportunity to rescue its kidnapped soldiers and destroy as many Hezbollah and Hezbollah armaments as possible, urges caution in the interest of preserving a nascent and fragile democratic government in Lebanon. Could we be more conflicted?

While the United States provides about $2.5 billion in military and economic aid to Israel each year, U.S. aid to Lebanon amounts to no more than $40 million. This despite the fact that the per capita GDP of Israel is among the highest in the world at $24,600, nearly four times as high as Lebanon's GDP per capita of $6,200.

Lebanon's lack of wealth is matched by the Palestinians -- three out of every four Palestinians live below the poverty line. Yet the vast majority of our giving in the region flows to Israel. This kind of geopolitical inconsistency and shortsightedness has contributed to the Arab-Israeli conflict that the Western world seems content to allow to perpetuate endlessly.

As our airwaves fill with images and sounds of exploding Hezbollah rockets and Israeli bombs, this conflict has completely displaced from our view another … of more than three years duration that has claimed almost 15,000 lives so far this year alone.

An estimated 50,000 Iraqis and more than 2,550 American troops have been killed since the insurgency began in March of 2003, which by some estimates is more than the number of dead on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past 58 years of wars and intifadas.

In the Middle East, where is our sense of proportion? Where is our sense of perspective? Where is our sense of decency? And, finally, just how smart are we?

[Excerpt from Lou Dobbs, CNN]


Spend it Down

Chances are that, over time, the Gates Foundation will become less, rather than more innovative in its giving. At the event announcing his gift to the Gates Foundation, Mr. Buffett declared his opposition to "dynastic wealth," meaning a financial inheritance that is passed on to generations that didn't earn it.

The challenge for Mr. Buffett, as well as for Mr. and Mrs. Gates, will be to prevent the creation of a philanthropic dynasty -- an organization that exists in perpetuity, clinging tightly to its assets and ever further removed from its benefactors and their intentions.

A simple step solves this problem: The Gates Foundation could agree to spend itself out of existence.

A decision to spend an endowment now rather than protect it forever also allows a foundation to have a big impact on a knowable present instead of a smaller influence on a mysterious future.

"Our foundation and its partners are tackling some of the most challenging problems in the world," says a statement on the Gates Foundation Web site. If that's true, then shouldn't they be spending every last penny of resources that can be directed at these problems right now? That would really be "giving back."

[Excerpt of an article by John J. Miller, The Wall Street Journal]


Spending $1 billion of the Google fortune

If Larry Brilliant's life were a film, critics would pan the plot as implausible. Trained as a physician, he was studying in an Indian monastery in 1973 when a guru told him to join the UN smallpox vaccination effort. Brilliant helped eradicate the disease from India and eventually the planet.

He returned to the US and founded a charity organization, Seva, that has saved millions of people in developing countries from blindness; co-founded the online community the Well; and served as CEO for four tech companies. Oh, and he also found time to march with Martin Luther King Jr. and moonlight as a physician for Jerry Garcia.

Last October, Brilliant received a $100,000 TED Prize to further his idea for building a global early-warning system for disease and disaster. Four months later Google hired him to head its charitable arm, Google.org, with an initial bankroll of 3 million shares, worth about $1.15 billion, and 1 percent of annual profits.

[Excerpt of an article by Evan Ratliff, Wired Magazine]


Meet Larry Brilliant of Google.org

Larry Brilliant recently suspended a self-imposed "quiet period" to talk to Wired Magazine about his plans for Google.org.

It seems like you were meant for this job.
My life only makes sense in retrospect. I was the mascot on the smallpox initiative. I was young and I could speak Hindi and I could type. I stayed there for over 10 years, and I rose to a big lofty title. But I learned epidemiology; I learned public health; I learned developing countries; I learned how to live through floods and catastrophes and famines. I've held hundreds of dead babies in my arms. I've learned how to think when the world is going to hell all around me.

What's your Google.org mandate?
We'll have three big areas: climate crisis, global public heath, and global poverty, not necessarily in that order. I'm going to approach this the way a venture capitalist would map out the industry to see what the gaps are. You fund an initiative, learn what works, and ask, "Will it scale?"

Where’s the money coming from?
One percent of the equity, 1 percent of the profits, and 1 percent of the people go into Google.org. The most important asset isn’t money, it’s people. One percent of the people means 60 or 70 of the smartest people in the world trying to solve some of the biggest problems in the world.

[Excerpt of an article by Evan Ratliff, Wired Magazine]


Philanthropy weeds out the bad guys

In the wake of Jack Abramoff's alleged abusive use of philanthropic organizations for political purposes, there is both a need and a public demand for new regulations on the sector. Lately, many are asking, "What are all philanthropic organizations doing to prevent such egregious use of their organizations and assets?"

As a member of Congress and now as the president and chief executive officer of the Council on Foundations, an association of more than 2,000 foundations and company giving programs, I view this from a unique perspective.

From my position as a legislator, I saw how different entities can be exploited by the unscrupulous to gain favor in politics.

From my vantage point at the helm of the Council, I see the many measures that effective, ethical philanthropic organizations are taking to protect themselves against such abuse, and am impressed with how seriously the field has taken its responsibility to its donors and to the general public to be prudent stewards of their charitable assets.

While there is no magic answer to solving all abuses, self-regulation is one of the most promising and effective tools we have.

Let me be blunt: Most foundations and giving programs that seek to abide by the public trust also have sought to follow the standards established by their field. The foundations in trouble on Capitol Hill would do well to become the philanthropic citizens exemplified by their foundation colleagues in the field.

[From a commentary by Steve Gunderson in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer]


Israeli Bombs Kills 4 UN Observers

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan is calling on Israel to investigate the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the base.

"I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a UN Observer post in southern Lebanon," Mr. Annan said. "This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long-established and clearly marked UN post at Khiam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that UN positions would be spared Israeli fire."

UN officials say there had been 14 incidents of firing close to the outpost from Israeli forces in the afternoon before it was hit.

Let's see if I have this right:

1. Two weeks back, Arab "terrorists" attack military units, and are therefore terrorists.
2. Israel retaliates by launching aerial, naval, and artillery bombardments of civilian areas and they are “engaging in self-defense."

3. The US delays plans to apply any pressure for a cease-fire, while nearly 20 percent of Lebanon's 4 million people are forced to flee their homes amidst the daily carnage.

4. Meanwhile the US expedites a shipment of precision bombs to Israel, amid the Jewish state’s ongoing assault on Lebanon.
5. Israel bombs a clearly marked UN post, killing 4 UN peacekeepers…


A Planned Mideast War

The Israelis tend to launch their wars of choice in the summer, in part because they know that European and American universities, the primary nodes of popular opposition, are out in the summer.

Matthew Kalman writes that Israel’s wide-ranging assault on Lebanon was shown to Washington think tanks and officials last year on power point by a senior Israeli army officer:

"More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail."

That this war was pre-planned was obvious to me from the moment it began. The Israeli military proceeded methodically and systematically to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure, and clearly had been casing targets for some time. The vast majority of these targets were unrelated to Hezbollah.

[Meanwhile] the US Department of Defense, appearing to be a partner in the war effort, is committed to rapidly re-arming Israel and providing it precision laser-guided weaponry, and to giving it time to substantially degrade Hezbollah's missile capabilities.



One third of Lebanon causalities are children

Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official on Sunday denounced the Israeli air strikes that have devastated Beirut and southern Lebanon, saying civilians were paying a "disproportionate price" in the attacks targeting Hezbollah strongholds.

Nearly one third of all casualties in the Lebanon-Israel conflict have been children, according to the United Nations’ emergency relief coordinator.

Most of the wounded could not be helped because roads and bridges had been cut by Israeli air strikes. Without a truce allowing aid agencies to begin the relief effort there would be a “catastrophe“.

Egeland appealed for safe passage for aid and said the United Nations would begin an international aid relief operation in the next few days. But he cautioned the fleet of trucks and ships that will bring in supplies need free access and security, which are lacking so far.

Israel has eased its blockade on Beirut's port to allow humanitarian supplies to pass through, but there appeared to be no letup in Israeli attacks on roads leading out of Beirut and along the route to Syria.

The World Health Organization said 600,000 people have been displaced by the hostilities. Lebanese Finance Minister Jihad Azour said close to 750,000 had fled their homes, nearly 20 percent of Lebanon's 4 million people.

[Excerpts of report by Lauren Frayer, Associated Press writer, and from the Irish Examiner]


Aiding the Displaced of Lebanon

The continuing Israeli-Lebanese conflict has produced a stream of refugees, with the United Nations estimating the number of displaced people at more than 500,000.

Among the humanitarian organizations that have set up relief programs is Mercy Corps, a Portland, Ore., organization that works world-wide on economic, agricultural and disaster-relief programs, has continuing projects in the Middle East.

The group was approached by the Lebanese government to help with refugees from southern Lebanon. Its staff there has begun distributing food, including beans and noodles, and plans soon to distribute hygiene kits with soap and towels.


Syria offering refugee and aid to fleeing Lebanese

Thousands of Lebanese have fled to Syria to escape the Israel bombardment over the past week. At the main border crossings about 25 miles west of Damascus and over the course of a few hours, we saw a steady stream of Lebanese cars, trucks, pick-up trucks fleeing the fighting.

Officials at this border post say that over the last 24 hours at least 40,000 people had come across, and over the last week at least 100,000 people had come through that one border crossing — which is between east Lebanon and west Syria — so that’s not including any of the northern border crossings.

LIFE Syria is currently responsible for coordinating relief efforts and bringing food and essential items to the displaced Lebanese families who managed to find their way inside Syria. LIFE Syria in cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross will supply displaced families with food packages that are able to feed a family of 5 or 6 for approximately 10-15 days. In addition, LIFE is collaborating with a local Lebanese NGO to supply IDPs stranded in the cities of Saida and Beirut with the same food packages. These two cities have been officially declared disaster areas.

Amidst the rising toll of internally displaced families and injured Lebanese civilians, LIFE for Relief and Development has also been working fervently to gather and commit as many resources as possible in aiding the distressed and internally displaced people (IDP) of various cities in Lebanon.

[MSN, Reuters]


The Mess in Mesopotamia

In their quiet moments, are the men that brought us the War in Iraq haunted that they opened Pandora's box?

100 Iraqi civilians are being killed every day! Close to 2,600 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives, and another 18,000 or more have been wounded in action—often maimed for life—and thousands more fighting under the stress and strain of fighting a guerrilla war in which they never know when they might be shot or killed. Even if they survive Iraq physically, what they see and experience there often haunts them the rest of their lives.

That's the cost in human lives.

Financially, it's bankrupting the U.S. government to the tune of $6 billion a month to occupy Iraq and kill Iraqis.

Those who planned the war figured that they'd just take over Iraqi oil production and sell the oil to finance their occupation and rebuilding, but it hasn't worked out that way. They did manage to appropriate a few billion dollars in the Iraqi treasury when they took over, but they haven't made any money selling Iraqi oil. Iraqi insurgents, who consider the oil theirs and not America’s, keep blowing up the pipelines or otherwise managing to sabotage oil production, denying the U.S. the ability to profit from their national misery.

For the first time since Vietnam, the U.S. has once again found it's not as easy to get out of a war as it was to get into one. And getting into this one has not demoralized its military, drained the treasury, and alienated much of the world to the U.S.

The United States continues to embrace the dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as has been the case for 60 years. Meanwhile, Israel is attacking elected governments in the Palestinian Authority, and Lebanon, with U.S. support.

The mess in Mesopotamia indeed.

Bush has the power to stop the killing in Lebanon

In August 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. That time they were trying to destroy the PLO. This time it's Hezbollah. During 14 hours on Aug. 12, the Israelis flew 220 bombing sorties over Beirut and fired 44,000 artillery shells into the city. Americans, perhaps more innocent in those days, were horrified by what they saw on television. A Newsweek correspondent cabled home: "Watching the Israeli Air Force smashing Beirut to pieces was like having to watch a man slowly beating a sick dog to death."

The next morning, one of Reagan's longtime assistants came into the Oval Office and told Reagan he was quitting: "I can't be part of this anymore, the bombings, the killing of children. It's wrong. You're the one person on the face of the Earth right now who can stop it. All you have to do is tell Begin you want it stopped."

Reagan called Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Working from notes, as usual, the American president said the future of relations between the two allies would be affected if the bombing and shelling were not stopped. Reagan used, deliberately, the word "Holocaust" to describe what Israel was doing.

Begin, who never had a good personal relationship with Reagan, was enraged, saying Israel was a sovereign country, not an American colony. Twenty minutes later, he called back the White House and said he was ordering an end to the attack on Beirut.

Why shouldn't [the American President] have that kind of power? Israel may be the good guys in a bad neighborhood -- but for most of its history it has been, in effect, an American protectorate. We pay the bills, more than $5,000 per capita each year in an endless aid stream to Israel.

[Excerpt of article by Richard Reeves, Yahoo News editorial]


Mideast: kicking open a hornets' nest

Sometime in the fall of 2002, I likened a U.S. invasion of Iraq to "kicking open a hornets' nest." I predicted that, if the Iraqis decided to fight in the cities, our casualties would be between five and ten thousand U.S. troops at least. Now, U.S. casualties exceed 20,000.

But the "hornets' nest" I predicted was not just an interminable and intractable U.S. occupation of Iraq. It was wider war in the Middle East. The larger hornets' nest is now swarming.

By our justified overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, though unsuccessful decapitation of al Qaeda, we removed a thorn in Iran's side.
By removing Saddam Hussein, we removed a thorn in Iran's other side.
Inadvertantly and ignorantly, we empowered Iran to undertake a major intervention on behalf of the Shiite majority in Iraq.
In response to our insistence that Iran not develop any nuclear capability, Iran and Syria have emboldened Hezbullah in Lebanon to energize Israel's formidable military and Hamas to do the same.
The U.S. is fighting a two front war with Afghanistan and Iraqi insurgents.
Israel is fighting a two front war with Lebanon and the Palestinians.

--Gary Hart, writing in Huffington Post


Gleneagles One Year After

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that the Group of Eight has failed to make progress on some of the commitments it made at a summit last year to tackle global poverty.

Blair has enlisted rock star Bob Geldof and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to track how G8 industrialized nations live up to their aid promises to Africa.

Blair announced he is setting up an independent Africa Progress Panel, to be chaired by Annan and to include Geldof, organizer of a series of Live 8 concerts last year, and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, to evaluate progress.

Millions attended rock concerts around the world to press for action by the G8, which promised an extra $50 billion a year in total aid for all developing countries by 2010, including an expected $25 billion for Africa.

Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane, who set up the African Monitor watchdog which gets local communities to track the progress of aid pledges, told BBC radio the rhetoric was strong, but was not always matched by delivery.

"People are good at talking," he said. "What we are seeking to do is to ensure that there is translation from talk to action -- that the actual cash is delivered."



Fatal fruit and statistics of the Iraqi War

More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of 2006, an ominous figure reflecting the fact that "killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread" in the war-torn country, a United Nations report says.

[Since the American invasion, the number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war stands at 2,548.]

The report, a bimonthly document produced by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, includes chilling casualty figures and ugly anecdotes from the insurgent and sectarian warfare that continues to rage despite the establishment of a national unity government and a security crackdown in Baghdad.

Academics and health professionals have been attacked, spurring them to leave the country or their home regions, causing a brain drain and a dislocation in services.

Kidnappings have been part of the chaotic Iraqi scene since the insurgency began, with many hostages killed even after a ransom is paid. Although there are no reliable statistics regarding this phenomenon, because Iraqis often are afraid to report such crimes to the police, the kidnappings are likely a daily occurrence," the report says.

For children, the "extent of violence in areas" other than the Kurdish region "is such that likely every child, to some degree, has been exposed to it," it says.

"Civilian casualties resulted mainly from bombings and drive-by shootings, from indiscriminate attacks, in neighborhood markets or petrol stations, or following armed clashes with the police and the security forces," the report says.

In late June, the Ministry of Health "acknowledged information stating that since 2003 at least 50,000 persons have been killed in violence and stated the number of deaths are probably under-reported." the report says.



Second golden age of philanthropy

"I think that what we're seeing is a second golden age of philanthropy. Exactly a century ago, we had the Carnegies, Rockefellers, and the Mellon families. More recently in the late 1990s with the tech boom, we've had a surge in the number of foundations."

--Jeff Martin, a spokesman for the Council on Foundations, an association of foundations and corporate-giving programs.


You too can be like Warren Buffett

You can be like Warren Buffett, even without his billions. The world's second-richest man is presently in the process of turning over the bulk of his fortune to charity.

Many in the philanthropic community expect Buffett's magnanimous gesture to rub off on others -- even those of modest means.

"No question," says Tom Wilcox, president of the Baltimore Community Foundation. "Every time people hear about other people being philanthropic it inspires them to do the same thing. ... The capacity for people to be generous is limitless once they're shown how to do it."

One such option is a Donor-Advised Fund, popular with many charities. Essentially, a person donates cash or appreciated securities or property to the donor-advised fund and gets an upfront tax deduction. And the donor can recommend which charities or programs receive donations and how much.

[Excerpt of an article by Eileen Ambrose, The Baltimore Sun]


You don’t have to be rich to give

A timely tribute to Thomas Cannon, who died last year at age 79. The longtime resident of Richmond, Va., was no titan of industry, but for many he embodied the spirit of giving more than any megabillionaire could.

Although he was a postal worker who seldom earned as much as $30,000 a year, Cannon routinely gave away much of what he earned, usually in increments of $1,000. His generosity was celebrated in such national forums as Ebony Magazine and on the Oprah Winfrey and "Nightline" TV shows.

Cannon made his first donation in 1972, when he was 47. He had given away an estimated $150,000 by the time he died.

His methods must have required some extraordinary penny-pinching, but he didn't see it that way. He once explained to a reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch exactly how he did it: "People say, 'How can you afford it?' Well, how can people afford new cars and boats? Instead of those, we deliberately kept our standard of living down below our means. I get money from the same place people get money for those other things."

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, blacks donate 25 percent more of their discretionary income than whites. On average, Black Enterprise magazine notes, black households give $1,614 to their favorite causes. That figure doesn't take into account tithing -- contributing 10 percent of household income -- to churches, a widespread practice among black families.

[Excerpt of article by Jabari Asim, The Washington Post]


You too can be a philanthropist

Anne C. Fulwiler is no dreamer. She knows she'll never match Warren Buffett's philanthropic largess, but this mother of two young children is still doing her part to help support local charities.

"We are not Warren Buffetts by any means," Fulwiler said. "I mean, we live very modestly. My kids go to public schools. But the community foundation leverages the funds that you would give, and it frankly makes it fun and easy."

Community foundations - nonprofits that help individuals and families make gifts - have been around for years but witnessed a surge in popularity near the turn of the 21st century, a time when a buoyant U.S. economy allowed many Americans to look for new ways to put their money to work.

The foundations make giving easy by providing staff members to help givers identify social needs that interest them and helping them connect with strong charities. In some cases, fund creators let the foundation decide how to spend their money; it depends on how involved the donor wants to be.

"What is so great about [the Buffett] gift and the exposure that has come from it is that it will serve as an incentive for all people, in all income brackets, to make a mark," said the communications director for the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

[The Baltimore Sun]


Giving Back is Fun

Bill Gates says he's optimistic that the Warren Buffett gift will spark more of the nation's superrich to become donors while they are still alive.

"I hope we're seeing a rise in philanthropy and that people with wealth will give wealth back and give it back at a younger age," Gates said.

"Ted Turner started it all by scolding people. We're trying to complement that by showing how much fun it can be."

[Quotations from The Wall Street Journal]


Corporate Giving: Quieter Side Of Philanthropy

While Buffett and the Gateses were making headlines, the country's nearly 2,600 corporate foundations were busy too. Corporate foundations gave a record $3.6 billion in 2005, a nearly 6% increase over the previous year, according to estimates by the Foundation Center, a New York-based institute that tracks corporate philanthropy.

That's more than two and a half times the total grants paid by the Gates Foundation in 2005, which approached $1.4 billion. And it doesn't include the money that companies give directly, without going through a foundation.

Total corporate giving increased 22.5% last year, to about $13.8 billion.

[Excerpt of article by Daniel J.T. Schuker, Forbes]


Few high-profile transgressors put charities under microscope

The U.S. charity sector is much admired abroad, yet here at home it's subject to intense and sometimes painful scrutiny -- both from those within the philanthropic field and from the outside.

In recent years, some of our most historically revered charities -- the American Red Cross, the United Way, and the Nature Conservancy -- have been caught up in disturbing investigations. In other instances, regulators have uncovered scandals in charities that had previously enjoyed widespread public admiration. We've been made aware of groups that have violated the public trust to attain their goals more quickly or easily.

Each time such a story comes to light, donors feel let down. Their faith in the nonprofit sector lessens and they begin to eye other -- if not all -- charities with suspicion. To an extent, all charities suffer because of the transgressions of the few. How did it come to this -- to so many donors questioning how and why they should give? And how can trust be restored?

The spotlight is shining brighter on the nonprofit world than ever before. In part, this is because of the unprecedented wealth coming into the sector, and also because of transformations resulting from the Internet. As a result, the media now gives more coverage to charities than before, often carrying out their own investigations.

[Excerpt of an article by Cristine Cronin, BusinessWeek]


Bill to dictate charitable giving oversteps authority

In one of the more squirrel-brained pieces of legislation to emerge from Lansing, two state lawmakers are offering a bill to force foundations legally incorporated in Michigan to disburse half of their charitable donations within the state.

Their target is the Ford Foundation, which was founded by the Ford family in Michigan in 1936, but long ago abandoned the state.

The Ford Foundation's focus is now social engineering in the Third World. So it's not surprising that the foundation, now based in New York but still chartered in Michigan, doesn't have much interest in its old home state.

The bill introduced by Republican Bill Huizenga, and Democrat Andy Dillon is bone-headed. Foundations can give money wherever they please. Lawmakers have no business dictating their operations.

[Excerpt from Detroit News editorial]

Don't tie charitable foundations' hands

Two members of the Michigan Legislature are proposing a bill that would severely restrict how the state's charitable foundations spend the philanthropic dollars of others. Even worse, this legislation comes at a time when governments at all levels are in retreat in funding vital services that are clearly their responsibility.

Should Michigan's misguided efforts advance, other states might decide to join the bandwagon.
Unlike government, with its one-size-fits-all approach, foundations are exceedingly flexible, able to spot emerging trends and prepare an effective response, or react immediately when the circumstances warrant. Should government succeed in shackling foundations, who will answer the call?

Foundations can attribute much of their success to their ability to act independently and quickly. While they are answerable to their donors and boards, foundations can afford to take appropriate risks and encourage creative and innovative solutions that advance the social good. Equally important, foundations are not bound by political or geographical boundaries -- nor are the vast needs they serve.

[Excerpt of a commentary by Steve Gunderson published in The Detroit Free Press]


Ford Foundation Announces Africa Initiative

The Ford Foundation announced the creation of a new philanthropic venture, led by Africans and based in Dakar, Senegal. The project, Trust Africa, aims to strengthen an expanding network of nonprofit groups across the continent that seek to hold governments accountable, whether elected or dictatorships.

Ford has committed $30 million to this new foundation. Half the money will finance a permanent endowment, and the other half will be used to provide grants to many groups over the next five years.

Trust Africa's executive director, Akwasi Aidoo, a Ghanaian who formerly headed Ford's offices in Senegal and Nigeria, said it would strive to build links among civil society groups that could tackle regional problems of violent conflict, economic development and social justice.

[The New York Times]


Join the GLOBAL POVERTY discussion

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking about something as big as ending global poverty. It’s hard to even understand the scope of this problem, let alone think of ways to solve it, and it’s difficult to imagine how one person could make a difference.

Bono’s question about finding ways to make poverty history raises several issues, some of which coincide with Isaiah Washington’s question about fighting the spread of a disease like malaria. These goals may feel massive, but as many of you pointed out in response to Isaiah’s question, discussing them is the first step to making change become a reality.

Ending poverty on a global level is not going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be made at all. Bono and groups like One.org are urging people to find ways to get the ball rolling in their own little corners of the world. Sometimes keeping the conversation going makes all the difference.

Identifying the sources of the problem may be the first step. Many cite trade regulations and corruption as key contributors to global poverty, and say that the duty to rectify these issues falls on the shoulders of established nations. The scarcity of natural resources, loss of ambition, and limited opportunity for growth also help contribute. Some believe that monetary assistance grants only help perpetuate the problem, while others examine biological and psychological theories behind the subculture of poverty.

So what can ordinary people do?

Well, nurses4evr suggests investing in third and fourth world countries as a solution, and thylawyer’s ideas for poverty relief in Africa are intriguing. Some Answerers mirror auntb’s views, believing that alleviation may be possible, but elimination is too daunting a task to achieve. Some Americans want to start by addressing the poverty at home, while others debate whether U.S. poverty still exists. I really like sandcatsle’s ideas for realistic solutions to poverty because they stress the importance of keeping informed and give examples of ways to get involved on both a smaller and larger scale. As sandcastle put it, “every little bit helps.”

actual discussion at yahoo 360


21st-century Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller

The announcement last week that Warren E. Buffett, the nation's second-richest man, would donate most of his $44 billion fortune to a foundation created by Bill Gates, the nation's richest man, sent reporters to the history stacks.

After all, the philanthropic pairing invited comparisons to Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. As the wealthiest men in the country at the turn of the 20th century, Carnegie and Rockefeller embarked on huge, independent philanthropic efforts. Each gave away hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decades of his life. And each endowed a foundation that is still a philanthropic force.

The comparisons are apt, said Ron Chernow, author of "Titan," the magisterial biography of John D. Rockefeller. "Rockefeller and Carnegie were pioneers in big business, and so it was a natural and inevitable transition that they would be pioneers in philanthropy," he said in a telephone interview. "And, like them, Gates and Buffett, who were also pioneers, are focusing on issues with broad appeal and universal support."

Despite the similarities, Mr. Gates is approaching philanthropy in a fundamentally different way. Call it Philanthropy 2.0. Just as Carnegie and Rockefeller were influenced by the vertically integrated, industrial economy they helped to create, Mr. Gates's philanthropic efforts are defined and affected by the less hierarchical, networked economy that he helped to create. With its small staff, strategy of creating partnerships and focus on research and development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation more closely resembles a 21st-century software company than a 20th-century philanthropy.

[Excerpt of article by Eileen Ambrose, The Baltimore Sun]


Giving while living

You don't have to be as rich as Warren Buffett to give away your money like him. [who last week gave billions of his huge fortune to charity.]

Numerous investors have tried to emulate Mr. Buffett's famous investing style to build fortunes of their own.

Now, philanthropy advisers believe his new philanthropic plan will become a model for how to donate money in order to get the maximum charitable impact.

The moves reflect growing interest among wealthy people in making big donations while they are alive, rather than as a bequest at death. Philanthropy advisers say giving while living, as it's called, is often a smart choice. For starters, donors can reap the joy -- and, in some cases, publicity -- over their good deed. What's more, donors can keep tabs on their gift, eyeing whether the money is being used effectively.

[Excerpt of an article by Rachel Emma Silverman and Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal]


Buffett Children Emerge as a Force in Charity

The three middle-aged children of Warren E. Buffett watched along with the rest of the country last week as their father, the celebrated investor, told the world that he would pass the bulk of his $40 billion personal fortune to the charitable foundation of Bill Gates, a fellow billionaire, and his wife, Melinda.

But Susie, Howard and Peter Buffett who, like their self-effacing father seem little affected by money, spent the week focusing not on what they might have received.

Instead, the siblings said in interviews, they were already at work trying to figure out how to manage a gift from their father valued at about $1 billion each that will go to their own charitable foundations.

That will propel them, along with a larger foundation named for their late mother, into the top ranks of philanthropy.

[Excerpt pf article by Jeff Bailey, The New York Times]


Tech Firms and Charitable Giving

As Bill Gates takes a step back from Microsoft Corp. to set a new standard for social responsibility, other technology companies are aiming to find new types of corporate giving for the Internet age.

Yahoo Inc. announced a partnership with One.org, an organization that fights AIDS and poverty. Through a 6-month-old program called Yahoo for Good Scrum, the company allowed employees to take time off from their day jobs to revamp the One.org Web site. The program aims to take on five similar projects a year to apply technology to charitable causes.

Similarly, Hewlett Packard Co. runs a project called Digital Villages, where employees try to infuse technology into central city communities. International Business Machines Corp. runs a Transition to Teaching program that helps teachers become accredited in math and science.

[Excerpt of article by Kim Hart, The Washington Post]


Gleneagles One Year After

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that the Group of Eight had failed to make progress on some of the commitments it made at a summit last year to tackle global poverty.

Blair has enlisted rock star Bob Geldof and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to track how G8 industrialized nations live up to their aid promises to Africa.

Blair announced he is setting up an independent Africa Progress Panel, to be chaired by Annan and to include Geldof, organizer of a series of Live 8 concerts last year, and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, to evaluate progress.

Millions attended rock concerts around the world to press for action by the G8, which promised an extra $50 billion a year in total aid for all developing countries by 2010, including an expected $25 billion for Africa.

Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane, who set up the African Monitor watchdog which gets local communities to track the progress of aid pledges, told BBC radio the rhetoric was strong, but was not always matched by delivery.

"People are good at talking," he said. "What we are seeking to do is to ensure that there is translation from talk to action -- that the actual cash is delivered."



With corporatization comes accountability

In June, Bill Gates announced his intent to relinquish day-to-day management of Microsoft, shifting his energies to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has already changed the face of philanthropy by merging charity with the rigor of business management.

The Gates Foundation has been lavishing its money primarily on research, prevention and treatment for AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. The Gates Foundation has already had a huge impact on the charity landscape because of its mammoth resources.

The foundation is setting an example for mega foundations in seeking to do more than merely fund projects. It also seeks to alter the landscape of poverty and disease in developing countries. This reflects a growing view that health and welfare are directly linked to development and global security issues.

The future will likely see an intensification of its corporate-style, evidence-based approach to philanthropy. "There's that slogan -- the 'corporatization' of philanthropy," says Princeton economics professor Uwe Reinhardt. While some purists and academics have used the term disapprovingly, Prof. Reinhardt says it may be good. "It's an exceedingly efficient vehicle for getting things done," he says. "With corporatization comes accountability."

[Excerpt of article by Marilyn Chase, The Wall Street Journal]


Bill Gates's World of Possibility

Melinda Moree met plenty of naysayers who dismissed the prospects of a malaria vaccine. Then she encountered Bill Gates.

No one had developed a human vaccine against a parasite like malaria before, and the monetary incentives simply did not exist for pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs targeted at poor children. Development would require cooperation among scientists, drug companies, health groups and international governments -- an alliance so large it didn't seem possible, she recalled someone telling Gates.

"Of course it is," Gates countered, according to Moree, now director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative in Seattle, which along with other groups has received nearly $500 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop, test, manufacture and eventually distribute a malarial vaccine. "There's something about vision and belief that these things are possible," Moree said.

The co-founder of Microsoft has given $25.9 billion of his personal wealth to the foundation and has pledged to give billions of dollars more to devote to several dozen specific programs, such as minority scholarships, clean water initiatives, updated computer systems in libraries and the development of a variety of vaccines.

[Excerpt of article by Yuki Noguchi, Washington Post]


Nonprofits in world health care

Government and industry do only part of the job of maintaining and improving public health. Nonprofit organizations play a critical supporting role, here and abroad. These private groups subsidize the development and distribution of needed medicines, vaccines and equipment.

The nonprofit sector exists to provide essential goods and services to markets unable to pay for them, and to do so more efficiently than government agencies. In the health arena, nonprofit groups play key roles in a number of areas. They promote public awareness of specific diseases and medical issues. They raise money. They underwrite early-stage research; assure the quality of medical products; and distribute goods and services to people who need them.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the most prominent of the nonprofit groups focusing on public health. Since its founding in 2000, it has made a number of major health-care grants, primarily in the developing world.

And last month, the Gates Foundation announced that it was shifting its funding priorities and would devote one-quarter of its giving to a global program addressing the underlying causes of poverty in the developing world.

[Excerpt of article by Roberta Snow, The Philadelphia Inquirer]