Killing The Children Of Iraq

A sad documentary (75 min) by John Pilger, highlights the fact that sanctions on Iraq since the Gulf War have killed more people than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945!

This includes over half a million children - many of whom weren't even born when the Gulf War began.

Video available to view or download


Taking Tiny Loans To The Next Level

An idea, not a person, was the most powerful force in philanthropy in 2006. The choice of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner was a tribute to it. It was truly the year of microfinance.

The energy, money, and brainpower being devoted to the practice of lending to the world's poor is unprecedented. "Previously, if we screamed, people didn't listen. Now, if we whisper, the whole world will hear," says Muhammad Yunus, who shares the Nobel Peace Prize with his Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank.

Yunus pioneered microfinance in the 1970s and continues to expand its boundaries. But some of the most exciting innovations reshaping the field spring from a new breed of philanthropists who hail, in large part, from the tech world. As befits captains of the tech industry, their efforts center on bringing scale, efficiency, and transparency to a fragmented, often inefficient area.

At the heart of microfinance is microcredit, the practice of offering small, unsecured loans to poor people not served by banks. The loans, often just $50 to $150, are used to buy everything from buffaloes that produce milk to sell in markets to mobile phones that villagers can pay to use. Borrowers are usually women, in part because studies show that women are more likely to use their earnings to pay for family needs than men. Repayment rates are said to run from 95% to 98%, though some suspect that figure is overstated.

[Excerpt of an article by Jay Greene and Jeffrey Gangemi, BusinessWeek]


Top 1 percent wary on giving to charity

Giving seems robust whenever Warren Buffett and Bill Gates announce mega-gifts.

But there's room for more donors. Last year, 1.3 million individual Americans are in the exclusive club of those whose incomes are in the top 1 percent, earning more than $328,000 that year, according to the Tax Foundation in Washington.

However, even in a generous nation like America, giving has been flat for the past half-century, at about 2 percent of GDP and income," notes the Catalogue for Philanthropy, which promotes small charities.

Manywith high incomes still worry about having enough money, and some distrust charities, according to a survey done by the Luxury Institute, a New York research firm, which found that 11 percent of respondents have no plans to donate to charity, and another 15 percent were uncertain.


Gates Foundation becoming a leader in underwriting research

The deep-pocketed Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with a $31.9 billion endowment and a $30 billion commitment from Warren Buffett , last winter gave $2.5 million to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT to fund a pilot study to create a genetic map of malaria.

Over the summer, the Gates Foundation donated $2 million to help Boston's Partners in Health run a training program in Rwanda on HIV treatment and prevention.

It previously had given $44.7 million to the Harvard-affiliated nonprofit group, co founded by medical anthropologist Paul Farmer , for research on tuberculosis in Peru and Russia.

[Excerpt of an article by Robert Weisman, The Boston Globe]


Profits for Non-Profits

This year, as never before, the line between philanthropy and business is blurring. A new generation of philanthropists has stepped forward, for the most part young billionaires who have reaped the benefits of capitalism and believe that it can be applied in the service of charity. They are "philanthropreneurs," driven to do good and have their profit, too.

Among them are eBay's founder, Pierre Omidyar, who wants to use investment capital as well as donations to expand the microloan industry, and Stephen M. Case, the co-founder of America Online, who is investing $250 million in companies that help consumers gain control of their health care.

Young companies are involved, too: when Google announced its philanthropic effort this year, it unveiled a venture-capital fund rather than a foundation.

The approach of these philanthropreneurs reflects the culture of the business that brought them their wealth: information technology, with its ethos that everyone should have access to information. By their way of thinking, the marketplace can have the same level-the-playing-field impact, and supply the world's poor with basic needs like food, sanitation and shelter.

[Except of an article by Stephanie Strom, The New York Times]


USA and UK, democracies no. 17 and 23

In “The World in 2007”, the British weekly magazine, The Economist, analyzed the level of democracy in 167 countries with the five categories; electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties, maximum of 10 points per each category.

The Economist, based on its analysis, classified the countries into four stages of democracy; full democracy, 28 countries; flawed democracy, 54; hybrid democracy, 30; and authoritarian regime, 55.

Although the recent wave of worldwide democratization, only 13% of the world population is considered to be living in ‘full democracy,’ whereas 40% of them are still under authoritarian regime.

Sweden is the most democratic country, according to the research, with 9.88 average score. Ireland, 9.71 points, the Netherlands, 9.66, and Norway, 9.55.

The US is ranked 17th while Japan is 20th and the United Kingdom 23rd.

The report points out that United States has suffered “a serious erosion of civil liberties” in the context of the war on terrorism and something similar has happened in the UK with a significant declination in political participation.


India Told to Get Grip on HIV in 2007

India must get on top of its HIV epidemic by next year or risk seeing it spiral out of control, the man who controls the richest private anti-AIDS fund in the country and a senior United Nations official warned.

“The signs are still ominous,'' Ashok Alexander, the director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's $258-million Indian HIV-prevention project, told Reuters in an interview.

He said the rising prevalence of HIV in more than 100 districts in which the foundation operates showed that a decade of government efforts had not slowed the virus, which is now estimated to have infected 5.7 million Indians.

“The huge challenge is scaling up prevention efforts. 2007 is when we need to have done this by,'' added Alexander, who has repeatedly said India's epidemic is at a tipping point. “It's very urgent.''

[The New York Times]


WHO Says Health Gains Made in Africa

African countries are developing innovative methods to tackle illness and disease, but health problems across the continent remain enormous, the World Health Organization said in a report Monday.

The U.N. health agency's report assessed the enormity of problems ranging from the ongoing AIDS crisis to the increasing incidence of diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

It also highlighted innovative strategies being developed across Africa that rely not on expensive methods imported from richer countries, but on local initiatives using readily available resources -- such as the training of community health care workers.

In Uganda, the shortage of doctors meant AIDS patients were going without treatment. To fill the gap, the country turned to its nurses, training nurses to do jobs traditionally done by doctors.

Africa's health report card is catastrophic: More than 90 percent of the world's malaria cases occur on the continent, and less than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa has access to safe water.

AIDS has cut a wide swath through Africa, and complicates virtually every pre-existing health issue on the continent. New problems like the recently identified extensively drug resistant tuberculosis in South Africa are also threatening already fragile health systems.

[The New York Times]


Torture guidance from VP Cheney?

A former top State Department official said that Vice President Dick Cheney provided the "philosophical guidance" that led to the torture of detainees in U.S. facilities.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told CNN that the practice of torture may be continuing in U.S.-run facilities. "There's no question in my mind that we did. There's no question in my mind that we may be still doing it," Wilkerson said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"There's no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated -- in the vice president of the United States' office," he said. "His implementer in this case was [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department."

Cheney has lobbied against a measure in Congress that would outlaw "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of prisoners. Cheney has come under mounting criticism for his position. Stansfield Turner, a military veteran who served as director of the CIA during the Carter administration, labeled him the "vice president for torture."

While traveling in Latin America, President Bush defended U.S. treatment of prisoners, saying flatly, "We do not torture."


CIA authorization on torture guidelines

The CIA has acknowledged for the first time the existence of two classified documents, including one signed by the US President, George Bush, that it used as guidelines in the interrogation and imprisonment of terrorist suspects.

The CIA referred to the documents in a letter sent to American Civil Liberties Union lawyers by the agency's associate general counsel, John McPherson.

The contents of the documents were not revealed, but one of them is "a directive signed by President Bush granting the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the US and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees", the rights group said.

The directive from Mr Bush is thought to have been issued soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the Justice Department memo about a year later.

Jameel Jaffer, one of the union's lawyers, said they intended to press for release of both of these documents. "If President Bush and the Justice Department authorised the CIA to torture prisoners, the public has a right to know," Mr Jaffer said in a statement.

[Excerpt from The New York Times]


Charges Sought Against Rumsfeld Over Prison Abuse

A lawsuit in Germany will seek a criminal prosecution of the outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials for their alleged role in abuses.

Legal documents, filed with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. (As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.)

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which says, in part: "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ."

Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world.

[Excerpt of an article by Adam Zagorin, The Times]

The Case against Rumsfield and Gonzales

The November 14, 2006, criminal complaint is a request for the German Federal Prosecutor to open an investigation and, ultimately, a criminal prosecution that will look into the responsibility of high-ranking U.S. officials for authorizing war crimes in the context of the so-called “War on Terror.”

The complaint is filed with much new evidence, new defendants and plaintiffs, a new German Federal Prosecutor and under new circumstances that include the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense and the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in the U.S. granting officials retroactive immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

The complaint alleges that American military and civilian high-ranking officials named as defendants in the case have committed war crimes against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the U.S.-controlled Guantánamo Bay prison camp.

The complaint alleges that the defendants “ordered” war crimes, “aided or abetted” war crimes, or “failed, as civilian superiors or military commanders, to prevent their commission by subordinates. The allegation is that the U.S. administration has treated hundreds if not thousands of detainees in a coercive manner.

The United States has refused to join the International Criminal Court, thereby foreclosing the option of pursuing a prosecution in international courts. German courts are seen as a last resort to obtain justice for those victims of abuse and torture while detained by the United States.

[Center for Constitutional Rights]


Build great companies, then help build a great world

Following is an excerpt of a commentary by Jim Fruchterman, published in The San Jose Mercury News , that outlines a challenge for today's new style of philanthropist:

Silicon Valley has become rich by selling products around the world. We have a highly efficient system for creating technology that solves problems and delivers value far beyond the confines of Northern California. But, we have only scratched the surface of what we could be doing to help solve the pressing social problems that confront us.

Charity? Philanthropy? Bleeding hearts? Perhaps, but when you use your heart, you don't have to check your brain at the door. The same skills and sophistication we use to build great companies can and must be applied to the world's biggest problems. One great way to explore how you can apply your business and technical skills is to link up with other like-minded people.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are building on the foundations laid by people like Bill Hewlett and David Packard, who long supported global issues and whose foundations continue their work today. We now realize that taking social action is in our direct interest and that of our children, whether it addresses human rights or the likely impacts of global warming.

Human beings respond to incentives, and there are many opportunities to utilize more entrepreneurial approaches to maximize the social returns of investing in social enterprises.

Using the same techniques we apply as business entrepreneurs, any number of us could tackle the problems of the world as social entrepreneurs.

How billionaires give their money away

In 1996, Ted Turner gave a now-famous interview in which he complained that the superrich were being corrupted by the Forbes 400 list. Turner, an impolitic billionaire who actually acknowledges such motivations as ego and one-upmanship, said the richest Americans weren't giving their money away because they feared falling lower on the net-worth rankings. He hoped the mega-wealthy could be induced to compete instead at giving away their fortunes.

Turner followed up his suggestion the next year with what was then the largest gift ever, a billion dollars to support the work of the United Nations.

Slate followed up by starting an annual list of the 60 largest charitable donations. An annual event, which was co-sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton School of Public Service, marked the 10th year of the Slate list. The growth in the scale and ambition of major charitable donations in the 10 years of the Slate 60 reflects that there are more people than ever before with more money than anyone could ever hope to spend.

But it also suggests that what Turner proposed really has come to pass. Steve Case, the founder of AOL, said at the conference that he thought competition among nonprofits was now "much more intense" than competition among businesses. These days, billionaires try to outdo each other not just in how much they give away, but also in how smart and effective they can be in tackling a variety of problems.

Case boasted about a program his foundation supports that can supply clean water to African villages for just $6 per person with pumps powered by children playing. Perhaps Richard Branson or Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay who has become a significant philanthropic innovator, can figure out a way to do it for $4 while recycling aluminum cans.

As opposed to the race to build the world's longest private yacht, this is a clash of titans we can all applaud. The new philanthropists have much in common. The ethic of the recent technology billionaires, as opposed to the great industrial tycoons, is to be partners rather than patrons. The modern philanthropist dislikes the term charity, preferring to speak about his social investments. His language is entrepreneurial, sprinkled with references to metrics, scalability, leverage, and venture philanthropy. The fashion these days is also to work globally rather than locally, to erect programs rather than edifices, and to focus on those who are absolutely worst off in the developing world, more than on those who are relatively impoverished at home.

[Excerpt of a commentary by Jacob Weisberg, Slate]


Termination of oversight added to big U.S. spending bill

Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart Bowen in Iraq have sent U.S. occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies such as Halliburton Co. and Parsons Corp., and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

But tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Bowen's supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip, in the form of an obscure provision terminating the federal oversight agency that he heads, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Bowen's office, created in January 2004 to examine reconstruction money spent in Iraq, currently has 55 auditors and inspectors in Iraq and some 300 reports and investigations already to its credit, far outstripping any other oversight agency in the country.

[Excerpt of an article by James Glanz, New York Times]

U.S. Military seeks $160 billion extra to cover war costs

The military services and defense agencies have requested as much as $160 billion in supplemental spending for the remainder of fiscal 2007 -- a staggering figure that would bring wartime costs this year to $230 billion, defense sources said.

The services' requests, first reported by InsideDefense.com, also would make total fiscal 2007 supplemental spending equal to more than half of the regular fiscal 2007 defense budget. The Army and Air Force requested $80 billion and $50 billion, respectively, for the last half of fiscal 2007, sources told CongressDaily. The Navy and Marine Corps appear to have submitted smaller requests.

Congress already has appropriated a $70 billion bridge fund to cover the war costs for the first several months of this fiscal year, $20 billion more than the Bush administration proposed last February in its fiscal 2007 budget request.

Several senior lawmakers, including Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., have become increasingly frustrated by the Defense Department's reliance on massive emergency spending bills, which bypass the authorization committees.

A Pentagon spokesman said it "would not be appropriate to discuss" the services' requests.


International giving on the rise

Driven by mega-gifts from large funders and response to natural disasters abroad, international giving by foundations set a record last year, a new study says.

Giving by U.S. foundations to overseas charities reached $3.8 billion last year, up almost 12 percent since 2002 after adjusting for inflation, says the "International Grantmaking Update," released by the Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations.

Foundations of all types posted international-giving growth rates that surpassed overall giving. A $750 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Vaccine Fund was a significant factor in the growth of international giving overall, and the foundation's total international giving in 2004 was $1.2 billion.

Global health organizations received almost one in two international grant dollars, the study says, while more than two in 10 grants awarded benefited international development.

[Philanthropy Journal]


Iraq War will cost more than $2Trillion

Two scholars, one a Nobel Prize winner, revisit their estimate of the true cost of the Iraq war – and find that $2 trillion was too low. They consider not only the current and future budgetary costs, but the economic impact of lives lost, jobs interrupted and oil prices driven higher by political uncertainty in the Middle East.

In January, we estimated that the true cost of the Iraq war could reach $2 trillion, a figure that seemed shockingly high. But since that time, the cost of the war – in both blood and money – has risen even faster than our projections anticipated.

One source of difficulty in getting an accurate picture of the direct cost of prosecuting the war is the way the government does its accounting. With “cash accounting,” income and expenses are recorded when payments are actually made – for example, what you pay off on your credit card today – not the amount outstanding. By contrast, with “accrual accounting,” income and expenses are recorded when the commitment is made. But, as Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee, notes, “The budget of the United States uses cash accounting, and only the tiniest businesses in America are even allowed to use cash accounting. Why? Because it gives you a very distorted picture.”

The distortion is particularly acute in the case of the Iraq war. The cash costs of feeding, housing, transporting and equipping U.S. troops, paying for reconstruction costs, repairs and replacement parts and training Iraqi forces are just the tip of an enormous iceberg. Costs incurred, but not yet paid, dwarf what is being spent now – even when future anticipated outlays are converted back into 2006 dollars.

[Excerpt of article by Linda Bilmes, who teaches public finance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Joseph Stiglitz, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors and chief economist at the World Bank, now teaching at Columbia University.]

New audit hunts Iraq's lost millions

A new audit examining 15 contracts signed in Iraq has found new evidence of massive corruption and mismanagement by the US government. The audit of 15 noncompetitive contracts paid for by US government agencies with Iraqi oil money was unable to account for $22.4 million in funds, a UN-led watchdog said.

"In view of these findings, the IAMB International Advisory and Monitoring Board recommends that the Iraqi government seek resolution with the US government concerning the use of resources of the [Development Fund for Iraq], which might be in contradiction with the UN Security Council Resolution 1483," the board said in a statement posted on its website.

The IAMB, which also includes officials from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, was created by the UN Security Council in 2003 to oversee the use of Iraqi oil money while the country was under an interim US administration.

In 2004 an audit, ordered by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) which governed Iraq after the US-led invasion, found that more than $8.8bn of Iraqi money was missing. The CPA found that the money had been paid for goods and services that were never provided.

In other cases, millions of dollars were paid by the CPA in salaries for thousands of security guards who did not exist. In other cases the money simply vanished.



Netherlands funds TB research

At the recent World Conference on Lung Health, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a $38.3 million investment in three partnerships working to develop drugs and vaccines to fight tuberculosis.

The commitment is the largest investment a single country has made in research of the illness to date.

Billed as the second-deadliest infectious disease behind AIDS, tuberculosis kills nearly 2 million people each year.

[Philanthropy Journal]


Religious Leaders Unite to Launch Vaccine Bond

Representatives of the world's leading religions will buy the first bonds in a pioneering $1 billion issue to fund life-saving vaccine projects.

The bond sale is the first of its kind to tap the international capital markets for money to fight preventable diseases like measles, polio and tetanus, which kill more than two million children a year in impoverished countries.

The scheme is the brainchild of British finance minister Gordon Brown, who has long campaigned for bond financing as a way of "front-loading" development aid.

This week's offering is only the first leg of the initiative, which aims to raise $4 billion in the bond markets over the next 10 years.



Gates Foundation helping Diarrhea Research

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving a nonprofit pharmaceutical company $46 million to expand its research on new treatments for diarrheal disease, which directly kills more than 2 million children worldwide each year.

The announcement of the grant to the Institute for OneWorld Health, a San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company, was set at the Global Forum for Health Research's annual meeting in Cairo.

The traditional treatment for the disease, which also contributes to the death of an additional 4 million children annually, is rehydration, but the company is working on drugs that inhibit fluid loss in the intestine, said OneWorld spokesman James Hickman.

[The New York Times]


Carnegie "the man who dies rich dies disgraced"

It has taken almost 120 years, but millionaires are finally beginning to follow Andrew Carnegie's advice.

In his 1889 "Gospel of Wealth" essays, Carnegie demanded that the wealthy give away their fortunes in their lifetimes. Those who did not would "pass away 'unwept, unhonored, and unsung'. Of such as these the public verdict will then be: 'The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.' "

By his own measure, Andrew Carnegie did not die disgraced. Carnegie also heeded his own "gospel," developing a moral philosophy of capitalism that resonates today.

He handed out more than $350 million (tens of billions in 2006 dollars) to small colleges, technical schools and libraries. He established a scientific research institution in Washington; provided trusts to pay students' tuition and professors' pensions; built a library/museum/concert hall complex in Pittsburgh; and gave millions of dollars to campaigns for world peace and to establish the Carnegie Corp., dedicated to the "advancement and diffusion of knowledge."

[Excerpt of an article by David Nasaw, The Los Angeles Times]


China pledges $5 billion to Africa

China's president pledged to double aid to Africa at a conference with dozens of African leaders on Saturday as Beijing tries to build ties in a search for oil sources and export markets.

China is trying to present itself as Africa's partner in economic development. But it faces complaints it is practicing neo-colonialism and supports regimes with poor human rights records.

"Without combined development between China and Africa, there will be no global peace and development," President Hu Jintao said in a speech to the conference's opening session at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's parliament.

Chinese-African trade grew to nearly US$40 billion last year, ten times the 1995 level, according to the Chinese government. China's state oil companies are expanding in Africa, signing deals in Nigeria, Angola, Sudan and elsewhere. Manufacturers are trying to expand exports to African markets.

Hu said Beijing will double aid to African countries from its 2006 level by 2009.

China will provide US$3 billion in preferential loans and US$2 billion of export credits over the next three years, while creating a US$5 billion fund to encourage Chinese investment in Africa, Hu said.

He said Beijing will forgive the poorest African countries' debts to the Chinese government and increase the number of categories of their exports that receive tariff-free import status.

China will train 15,000 African professionals, build schools, hospitals and anti-malaria clinics and send agriculture experts and youth volunteers to Africa, Hu said. He said China would double the number of scholarships given to African students to 4,000 by 2009.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz accused Chinese banks last month of ignoring human rights and environmental standards as they lend more to Africa. He warned that the flood of new credit could fuel corruption and African debt burdens.



U.S. near the bottom in Privacy Study

Individual privacy protection in the U.S. ranks amongst the worst in the democratic world, according to a London-based privacy organization.

The U.S. is on a par with China, Russia and Malaysia as far as private citizens' privacy, according to Privacy International, which surveys developments in 70 countries, assessing the state of technology, surveillance and privacy protection.

But the U.S. is not the worst performing democracy identified in the study. Britain is, placing last among all EU countries

It ranked Germany and Canada as those that best protect the privacy of its citizens.

More than 200 experts from around the world provided materials and commentary for the study. The participants range from law students studying privacy to high-level officials charged with safeguarding constitutional freedoms in their countries. Academics, human rights advocates, journalists and researchers provided reports, insight, documents and advice.


West Coast entrepreneurs and Bengali economics professor

Over the Labor Day weekend of 1995, a ponytailed, bearded young software engineer named Pierre Omidyar wrote a code that eventually became eBay. Not long after the company went public, in 1998, Omidyar's share of the stock offering was roughly ten billion dollars, and he became the richest thirty-two-year-old in the world.

With his wife, Pam, he started a foundation to give away large sums of money, but he was frustrated by the constraints and inefficiencies of the nonprofit world. Omidyar was searching for a way to change things on a grand scale, and, like many other highly successful young West Coast entrepreneurs, he became interested in a field called microfinance, or microcredit.

In November, 2004, he and Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the co-founders of Google, and other leaders of the high-tech community gathered at the San Francisco home of the venture capitalist John Doerr for a weekend session with Muhammad Yunus, who is considered the godfather of microcredit.

Yunus, an economics professor at Chittagong University, found the theories he was teaching maddeningly irrelevant; so he went into a neighboring village and began talking to the poor. He experimented with ways of helping them-initially, he lent twenty-seven dollars to a group of forty-two villagers-and before long he became convinced that he had a remedy for their condition: providing very small individual loans to the impoverished to start activities ranging from making bamboo stools to buying a dairy cow. In 1976, after local banks refused his entreaties to make the loans, he resolved to do it himself, and he founded the Grameen Bank.

[Excerpt of an article by Connie Bruck, The New Yorker]


Millions in credit to the world's poor

Muhammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in 1976, and the idea of reaching billions of the poor by achieving "scale" - a word invoked ceaselessly in the microfinance community- has enticed foundations, rich individuals, even investors into channeling millions into microfinance.

The $1.2-billion Michael and Susan Dell Foundation-established by the founder of one of the world's largest computer manufacturers-has begun making grants to microfinance institutions in India, a country of 1.1 billion people, most of whom have no access to financial services.

In October, 2005, Google established a philanthropic entity called Google.org, with seed money of about a billion dollars, to fight disease, global warming, and poverty; microfinance is expected to be a key component of its poverty portfolio.

And last April the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it would devote an undisclosed amount of money to expanding financial services for the poor in developing countries. Dr. Rajiv Shah, who oversees the new Gates program, said of microfinance, "This can reach hundreds of millions of people, and do so in a way that helps them move out of poverty and that sustains over time."

[Excerpt of an article by Connie Bruck, The New Yorker]

How to get foreign aid from the U.S.

American administrations have insisted for decades they do not engage in grubby vote-buying practices. Yet poor countries that serve on the influential Security Council typically receive substantially more U.S. aid dollars and find it easier to obtain loans or grants from financial institutions that are strongly influenced by the United States, according to recent academic studies.

The findings underscore the importance the United States places on cultivating even the weakest members of the Security Council, the lone international body with the power to impose universally binding economic sanctions and grant legitimacy to military adventures.

A two-year seat on the Security Council, for instance, can generate a 59 percent spike in U.S. assistance, according to a study by two Harvard University scholars that tracked U.S. economic and military assistance from 1946 to 2001.

In times of crisis, U.S. aid to some member countries has increased by as much as 170 percent.
Those aid levels tend to recede after the country leaves the 15-nation council.

"On average, the typical developing country serving on the council can anticipate an additional $16 million from the United States and $1 million from the U.N.," wrote Harvard economics graduate student Ilyana Kuziemko and Eric Werker, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School. "During important years, these numbers rise to $45 million from the U.S. and $8 million from the U.N."

Kuziemko said the study did not uncover "smoking gun" proof that the United States has used aid to buy influence. But she said the investigation uncovered a statistical pattern "that is very consistent with vote buying."

The largesse has extended to U.N. financial institutions, primarily the International Monetary Fund, where the United States holds sway. Romania, Zimbabwe, Ecuador and other countries that frequently backed resolutions sanctioning Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait received sizable IMF loans, according to a study by a political scientist and two scholars at a Swiss university.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations and USAID declined requests to comment on the findings.

[Excerpt of an article by Colum Lynch, Washington Post]


US raid, instead of US aid

I've posted opinions before that economic aid and assistance does more to win friends in foreign countries than war raids and missile attacks.

Well, ABC News has learned it was a Predator missile attack that destroyed a religious school in Pakistan earlier this week. The raid was launched after U.S. intelligence received tips and examined Predator reconnaissance indicating that al Qaeda's No. 2 man may have been staying at the school.

Despite earlier reports that the missiles had been launched by Pakistani military helicopters, Pakistani intelligence sources now tell ABC News that the missiles were fired from a U.S. Predator drone plane.

The Asia Times reports that the pre-dawn attack on the Islamic seminary claimed the lives of scores of people. AP adds that Pakistan's most influential Islamist political leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, said, ''They killed 80 teenagers who were students of the Quran. This is a very cruel joint activity (between the U.S. and Musharraf governments).''

AP adds that as many as 20,000 people protested Tuesday in Khar, the main town in Pakistan's northwestern tribal Bajur district, claiming innocent students and teachers were killed in the attack. They chanted: ''God is Great!'' ''Death to Bush! Death to Musharraf!'' and ''Anyone who is a friend of America is a traitor!''

Fears were high that Monday's attack will fan unrest across Pakistan.

Church goers sharing less of income

While the majority of charitable giving is directed to churches and other religious organizations, giving by churchgoers has dropped slightly, a new study says.

The study, "The State of Church Giving through 2004," is the 16th annual study of congregational giving by Empty Tomb, a Christian research and service organization based in Champaign, Ill.

Giving by a group of 40 Christian denominations, representing 40 million church members, dropped 1.16 percent in the portion of inflation-adjusted income donated.

The churches studied spent an average of 2 cents of each dollar on international missions, the study says, ranging from a high of 9 cents per dollar in the Primitive Methodist Church to a low of 1 cent for the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches.

Had churches given the traditional tithe, or 10 percent of income, giving by congregations would have increased by $164 billion, the study says.

[Philanthropy Journal]


Who gives more? US or Europe?

It is an oft-quoted belief in philanthropic circles that the US is years ahead of Europe when it comes to charitable giving.

But new research is now calling for a rethink, revealing that Europe's corporate foundations give more than their American counterparts.

Research by the magazine Philanthropy in Europe (PiE) shows that annual spending by Europe's top 25 corporate foundations last year outstripped the US by over €500m ($638m), distributing €1.7bn ($2.17 bn) compared to €1.1bn ($1.4 bn) in the US.

One explanation is that many of Europe's top 25 are the legacies of centuries-old corporate foundations and have amassed huge fortunes from a history of mergers and acquisitions.

In contrast, US corporate foundations have been established more recently by companies solely as an expression of their philanthropic intentions.

[Excerpt of an article by Annie Kelly, Guardian Unlimited]