New breed of young philanthropist: PARSA

In Atherton, Noosheen Hashemi, 43, an Iranian-born business executive and former vice president of finance for U.S. operations at Oracle Corp., is using her economics background to guide her international philanthropy.

Hashemi was sent by her parents at age 14 to live with her brother in San Jose in 1977, two years before the Iranian revolution unseated the Shah. She earned an economics degree from San Jose State University and went to work at Oracle in 1985, helping guide a financial turnaround for the company after it was hit with class-action shareholder lawsuits in 1990 and forced to restate earnings in 1991.

Today, she's a "retired" mother of two, married to Farzad Nazem, the chief technology officer at Yahoo. She's also created three nonprofit groups and sits on the board of a fourth, devoting 70 hours a week to her causes.

Hashemi's interests revolve around using economic development to fight global instability, and preventing child abuse. "It doesn't make good sense to solve all problems with military solutions -- at the end of the day, stability is an economics issue," she said. "Whether it's Oakland, Egypt or Afghanistan, if millions of 18-year-olds don't have jobs, they're going to be up to all sorts of mischief."

PARSA made its first grant in September, giving $210,000 to Ashoka, an international program in Virginia. Ashoka gives seed money to entrepreneurs in disadvantaged countries to start programs that address social problems, such as dispute resolution centers in Nigeria, self-help movements for disabled street beggars in Ghana and drug rehabilitation centers in Peru. Ashoka will select an entrepreneur of Persian descent and award the money to him or her for use in a social engineering project.

[Excerpt of an article by Carolyne Zinko, San Francisco Chronicle]


New breed of young philanthropist: Living Goods

Chuck Slaughter, 43, of Sausalito, founder of TravelSmith Outfitters, is creating a nonprofit to help impoverished African villages. His venture, Living Goods, will teach women to sell health care products such as mosquito nets, contraceptives and water treatment tablets in their neighborhoods, in much the way Avon ladies peddle beauty products to their friends.

Although for decades media reports have detailed the way foreign charity is diverted from the needy to corrupt governments, Slaughter saw for himself that it doesn't have to be so.

In 1988, after college and a failed attempt to become a documentary filmmaker, Slaughter came across a story in the New York Times about Trickle Up, an organization that provided seed money to people in developing nations who wanted to start small businesses. It was long before the term "micro-enterprise" was a buzzword and Muhammad Yunus won a Nobel Prize for issuing microcredit in Bangladesh.

"It seemed like a lot more direct way to make a difference," he recalled. So he went to work for the group, visiting Asia along the way and seeing entrepreneurs at work in a range of activities from running tea stands to sewing dresses.

He is developing a partnership with BRAC, an anti-poverty organization based in Bangladesh, to recruit women from the poorest villages and give them $100 to $200 loans to start selling health care products in their neighborhoods. BRAC already is funding female-run businesses in Uganda through hundreds of "solidarity circles" -- groups of 20 to 30 women who receive loans to start small businesses.

[Excerpt of an article by Carolyne Zinko, San Francisco Chronicle]


New breed of young philanthropist: SV2

While older tech fortunes have created the largest foundations in California, younger people are finding it's possible to become philanthropists, too.

Nowadays, it seems that everyone younger than 45 has his or her own nonprofit or foundation -- or at least pet cause. From 1999 to 2004, the number of foundations in California grew from 4,208 to 6,242, an increase of nearly 50 percent, according to a recent study by the Foundation Center in New York, which tracks philanthropic giving.

Though the center does not track donors' ages, a growing number in the Bay Area's younger set are leading their peers into philanthropic efforts, spurred in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's unprecedented efforts to tackle global health issues and financier Warren Buffett's historic $1.5 billion contribution to the Gates Foundation this year.

Some are creating new types of foundations by borrowing business models used in the venture capital world. Others are creating projects more appealing to their friends than conventional institutional programs. And those without millions are putting what they do have -- time and effort -- into innovative nonprofits, hoping that their successes will make it hip to do good.

"This is really the first time in history where a lifetime of wealth creation can happen to an individual in their 20s or 30s," said Laura Arrillaga, 36, a Stanford University business school lecturer who teaches strategic philanthropy and who in 1998 started her own foundation, Silicon Valley Social Ventures, known as SV2. "These are individuals who are creators, changemakers, proactive in reshaping the way things are done across all industries, so it makes sense they'd change the way philanthropy is done."

Peter Hero is the former president of Community Foundation Silicon Valley in San Jose says, "The era of people writing a check to the American Cancer Society is over among newer wealthy people," he said. "They're hands-on and have an investment mentality, asking, 'Where's the greatest return on my investment and how will I know it?' "

[Excerpt of an article by Carolyne Zinko, San Francisco Chronicle]


Wealthy generation X-ers making privilege pay

When Karen Pittelman found out her grandfather, a successful real-estate developer, had created a $3 million trust fund for her, she didn't want to keep the money.

At 24, she was frustrated with the world's inequalities and wanted to do what she could to lessen them. She persuaded skeptical parents to let her dissolve the trust and create the Chahara Foundation, dedicated to poor women in Boston. "There's such a joy in taking action for our beliefs," says Pittelman, now 31. "I was committed to being part of social change."

With generation X-ers set to inherit the wealth of baby boomers over the next several decades, more people will soon find themselves in Pittelman's situation.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the wealthiest 10 percent of baby boomers hold an average of about $3.2 million in assets, much of which they intend to bequeath.
Researchers at Boston College estimate the total intergenerational transfer of wealth could be $41 trillion through 2052.

[Excerpt of an article by Kimberly Palmer, US News & World Report]


Philanthropy should be about giving, not hoarding

While Warren Buffet's $31 billion gift to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation got big philanthropy headlines of 2006, the Gates Foundation's decision to spend all its assets within 50 years of the death of its last trustee may have been an even bigger story.

Philanthropy should be about giving, not hoarding.

Sadly, many foundations worry more about preserving their wealth than sharing it, figuring they can do more over time. Faced with proposals that Congress require they spend more, big foundations have invested millions to fight any increase.

The Gates Foundation is a rare exception, as is The Atlantic Philanthropies, which aims to spend its entire endowment of nearly $4 billion before 2020. And both foundations are using their spending strategically to attack the root causes of critical social and health problems.

Through their commitment to spend all their assets, these foundations make clear that the focus of giving should be change, not self-preservation.

[Todd Cohen, writing in Philanthropy Journal]


Gateses invest $17 million to give the poor clean water

Clean water. At least a billion people on Earth today can't get it.

"This is an enormous, unmet need worldwide," said Glenn Austin, leader of a $17 million project spearheaded by Seattle-based PATH and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Expected to be launched first in India, the five-year PATH project will explore how best to expand the use of household water purification methods such as filtration or chemicals in poor communities.

Safe drinking water is one of the most basic needs of humanity, Austin said, but one out of every six people on the planet still lacks access to it -- which feeds into a cycle of economic deprivation, environmental degradation, illness and death.

[Excerpt of an article by Tom Paulson, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer]


Church aims to build 1,000 wells in Africa

A nonprofit organization dedicated to providing clean water to the people of Africa plans to build or rehabilitate 1,000 wells on the African continent.

Water Wells for Africa, a project of The Breakwater Church in Manhattan Beach, Calif., has provided clean water to more than 140,000 people living in southern Africa since 1996, the organization says.

With 70 wells opened so far through the project, the church's pastor, Kurt Dahlin, expects the new goal to affect the lives of 2 million people.

[Philanthropy Journal]


41% Percent of Your 2006 Taxes Go to War

Are you aware that 41% of your tax dollars go to pay for current and past military activities?

The following is from FCNL's calculations on your 2006 tax dollars.

>The dollar figure, expressed in millions of dollars, followed by the percentage of federal funds budget:

Current Military Spending -- 571,558 M -- 28%
Cost of Past Wars -----------263,542 M -- 13%
Total Percent ------------------------------ 41%

>And this is what the balance of your taxes buy:
Interest on Federal Debt ----211,462 M -- 10%
Health Research & Services -393,547 M -- 19%
Responses to Poverty -------241,012 M -- 12%
General Government --------84,609 M -- 4%
Economic Development -----112,125 M -- 5%
Social Programs --------------97,716 M -- 5%
Science, Energy, & Environment
---------------------------------50,815 M -- 2%
International Programs -------29,764 M -- 1%


US Military's oil consumption

The US military is completely addicted to oil. Its oil consumption for aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities makes the Pentagon the single largest oil consumer in the world.

By the way, according to the 2006 CIA World Factbook rankings there are only 35 countries (out of 210) in the world that consume more oil per day than the Pentagon.

According to recently released "Annual Energy Management Report", in Fiscal Year 2006 the Pentagon consumed 320,000 barrels per day of site delivered oil, compared to about 360,000 barrels per day in 2005.

[Excerpt of an article by Sohbet Karbuz, Energy Bulletin]


Conservatives Waging War on Nonprofits

The Bush administration's proposed 2008 budget, which threatens elimination of 141 programs, is a reminder of another war - the one against nonprofits. Since 9/11, nonprofits have been financially starved, privatized out of business and even criminalized, under the "material aid" provisions of the Patriot Act.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, audits of 501(c)3's engaged in social programming have risen sharply, with Greenpeace, Advocates for Youth and the National Endowment for the Arts enduring such politically inspired harassment. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights report that Greenpeace and dozens of other progressive nonprofits have also been targeted for NSA and Pentagon spying.

[Excerpt of an article by Robert Koulish, a political scientist and France-Merrick professor of service learning at Goucher College]


How Wealth Creates Poverty in the World

Shoes made by Indonesian children working twelve-hour days for 13 cents an hour, cost only $2.60 but still sold for $100 or more in the United States.

There is a “mystery” we must explain: How is it that as corporate investments and foreign aid and international loans to poor countries have increased dramatically throughout the world over the last half century, so has poverty? The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. What do we make of this?

Over the last half century, U.S. industries and banks (and other western corporations) have invested heavily in those poorer regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America known as the “Third World.” The transnationals are attracted by the rich natural resources, the high return that comes from low-paid labor, and the nearly complete absence of taxes, environmental regulations, worker benefits, and occupational safety costs.

The U.S. government has subsidized this flight of capital by granting corporations tax concessions on their overseas investments, and even paying some of their relocation expenses---much to the outrage of labor unions here at home who see their jobs evaporating.

The transnationals push out local businesses in the Third World and preempt their markets. American agribusiness cartels, heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, dump surplus products in other countries at below cost and undersell local farmers. As Christopher Cook describes it in his Diet for a Dead Planet, they expropriate the best land in these countries for cash-crop exports, usually monoculture crops requiring large amounts of pesticides, leaving less and less acreage for the hundreds of varieties of organically grown foods that feed the local populations.

By displacing local populations from their lands and robbing them of their self-sufficiency, corporations create overcrowded labor markets of desperate people who are forced into shanty towns to toil for poverty wages (when they can get work), often in violation of the countries’ own minimum wage laws.

The savings that big business reaps from cheap labor abroad are not passed on in lower prices to their customers elsewhere. Corporations do not outsource to far-off regions so that U.S. consumers can save money. They outsource in order to increase their margin of profit.

Why has poverty deepened while foreign aid and loans and investments have grown? Answer: Loans, investments, and most forms of aid are designed not to fight poverty but to augment the wealth of transnational investors at the expense of local populations.

[Excerpt of an article by Michael Parenti, Information Clearing House]
read more

The World Bank and IMF’s role in creating poverty

The government aid given to Third World governments comes with strings attached. It often must be spent on U.S. products, and the recipient nation is required to give investment preferences to U.S. companies, shifting consumption away from home produced commodities and foods in favor of imported ones, creating more dependency, hunger, and debt.

Aid (of a sort!) also comes from other sources. In 1944, the United Nations created the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Voting power in both organizations is determined by a country’s financial contribution. As the largest “donor,” the United States has a dominant voice, followed by Germany, Japan, France, and Great Britain. The IMF operates in secrecy with a select group of bankers and finance ministry staffs drawn mostly from the rich nations.

The World Bank and IMF are supposed to assist nations in their development. What actually happens is another story. A poor country borrows from the World Bank to build up some aspect of its economy. Should it be unable to pay back the heavy interest because of declining export sales or some other reason, it must borrow again, this time from the IMF.

But the IMF imposes a “structural adjustment program” (SAP), requiring debtor countries to grant tax breaks to the transnational corporations, reduce wages, and make no attempt to protect local enterprises from foreign imports and foreign takeovers. The debtor nations are pressured to privatize their economies, selling at scandalously low prices their state-owned mines, railroads, and utilities to private corporations.

They are forced to open their forests to clear-cutting and their lands to strip mining, without regard to the ecological damage done. The debtor nations also must cut back on subsidies for health, education, transportation and food, spending less on their people in order to have more money to meet debt payments. Required to grow cash crops for export earnings, they become even less able to feed their own populations.

The purpose behind their investments, loans, and aid programs is not to uplift the masses in other countries. The purpose is to serve the interests of global capital accumulation, to take over the lands and local economies of Third World peoples, monopolize their markets, depress their wages, indenture their labor with enormous debts, privatize their public service sector, and prevent these nations from emerging as trade competitors by not allowing them a normal development.

[Excerpt of an article by Michael Parenti, Information Clearing House]


Billions more may be wasted in Iraq

The U.S. government is at risk of squandering significantly more money in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has already wasted or otherwise overcharged taxpayers billions of dollars, federal investigators said today.

The three top auditors overseeing contract work in Iraq told a House committee that $10 billion in spending was wasteful or poorly tracked. They pointed to numerous instances in which Defense and State department officials condoned or otherwise allowed poor accounting, repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for work shoddily or never done by U.S. contractors.

That problem could worsen, the Government Accountability Office said, given limited improvement so far by the Department of Defense even as the Bush administration prepares to boost the U.S. presence in Iraq.

David M. Walker, comptroller general of the GAO, Congress' auditing arm, said his agency has been pointing out problems for years, only to be largely ignored or given lip service with little result.

"There is no accountability," Walker said. "Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable."

[Excerpt of an AP article by Hope Yen]


A Trillion Dollars for the Military

Forget Millions. Forget Billions. The Bush Administration has asked Congress for a Trillion dollars for the Military. Click to find out exactly how much a Trillion dollars is.

The Bush administration asked Congress for a $2.9 trillion budget for fiscal year 2008 that includes nearly a trillion dollars for the military. The inflation of the military budget comes with great costs to programs to help low income people put food on their table, keep warm in the winter, and see a doctor when they are sick.

The president’s budget proposal includes $666 billion in current military spending. When the interest on the national debt attributable to military spending and the costs of veteran benefits are added, the total budget for current and past wars is $967 billion.

The president also proposes to make permanent the tax cuts that give an average break of $162,000 a year to people making more than $1 million a year.

Meanwhile under the president's budget about 300,000 families who are supported by a low-wage worker and qualify for food stamps would become ineligible for the program, heating assistance will be available for fewer homes, and support for child health insurance (SCHIP) will be cut.

[Friends Committee on National Legislation]


Pat Buchanan: Does Putin not have a point?

Commentary on the response to Putin's speech by Pat Buchanan, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination:

What did we do to antagonize Russia?
1. When the Cold War ended, we seized upon our "unipolar moment" as the lone superpower to seek geopolitical advantage at Russia's expense … planting NATO right on Mother Russia's front porch.
2. America backed a pipeline to deliver Caspian Sea oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, to bypass Russia.
3. Used bases in the old Soviet republics for the liberation of Afghanistan, [and] now seem hellbent on making those bases in Central Asia permanent.
4. [Plan to] put anti-missile systems into Eastern Europe. And against whom are they directed?
5. [Through] tax-exempt think tanks, foundations and "human rights" institutes such as Freedom House, headed by ex-CIA director James Woolsey, we have been fomenting regime change in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics and Russia herself.
6. U.S.-backed revolutions have succeeded in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia.
7. America conducted 78 days of bombing of Serbia for the crime of fighting to hold on to her rebellious province, Kosovo, and for refusing to grant NATO marching rights through her territory to take over that province.

These are Putin's grievances. Does he not have a small point?

How would we react if China today brought Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela into a military alliance, convinced Mexico to sell oil to Beijing and bypass the United States, and began meddling in the affairs of Central America and Caribbean countries to effect the electoral defeat of regimes friendly to the United States? How would we react to a Russian move to put anti-missile missiles on Greenland?

Unilateral force vs. global democracy

An excerpt of a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin:

The universal, indivisible character of security can be expressed as the basic principle that "security for one is security for all". As Franklin D Roosevelt said at the onset of the second world war: "When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries is in danger."

These words remain relevant today. Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.

What then is a unipolar world? …It describes a scenario in which there is one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making. It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And this is pernicious, not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within. And this, certainly, has nothing in common with democracy.

Today we are witnessing an almost unrestrained hyper-use of force - military force - in international relations, a force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. … We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. One country, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations.

Another important theme that directly affects global security is the struggle against poverty. On the one hand, financial resources are allocated for programmes to help the world's poorest countries - sometimes substantial financial resources (which tend to be linked with the development of that same donor country's companies). And on the other hand, developed countries simultaneously retain their agricultural subsidies while limiting some countries' access to hi-tech products.

And let's say things as they are - one hand distributes charitable help and the other hand not only preserves economic backwardness, but also reaps the profits thereof. The increasing social tension in depressed regions inevitably results in the growth of radicalism, extremism, feeds terrorism and local conflicts. And if all this happens in, say, a region such as the Middle East, where there is increasingly the sense that the world at large is unfair, then there is the risk of global destabilization.·

[Edited extract from a speech delivered by the Russian president at the 43rd Munich conference on security policy.]


Military collision with Iran

The painful reality is that the current Iraqi regime, characterized by the Bush administration as representative of the Iraqi people, largely defines itself by its physical location: the 4-square-mile U.S. fortress within Baghdad protected by a wall 15 feet thick in places and manned by heavily armed U.S. military popularly known as the Green Zone.

Here is a plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran: Iraq fails to meet the benchmarks for progress toward stability set by the Bush administration. This is followed by U.S. accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the United States blamed on Iran, culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran.

This plunges a lonely United States into a spreading and deepening quagmire lasting 20 years or more and eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Indeed, a mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potential expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the decisive ideological struggle of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and Al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack that precipitated U.S. involvement in World War II.

This simplistic and demagogic narrative, however, overlooks that the Nazi threat was based on the military power of the most industrially advanced European state and that Stalinism was not only able to mobilize the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine.

In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism. Al Qaeda is an isolated, fundamentalist aberration. Most Iraqis are engaged in strife not on behalf of an Islamist ideology but because of the U.S. occupation, which destroyed the Iraqi state.

Iran, meanwhile, though gaining in regional influence, is hardly a global threat; rather, it is politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that the United States must respond militarily to a wide Islamic threat with Iran at its epicenter is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.

No other country shares the Manichean delusions that the Bush administration so passionately articulates. And the result, sad to say, is growing political isolation of and pervasive popular antagonism toward the United States.

[From an article by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter, Los Angeles Times']


Sad State of the Union

--Total US military expenditures (including in Iraq and Afghanistan) in 2006: $522 billion

--Total military expenditures of the World's 10 next top spenders combined: $386 billion
(Includes China, Russia, the UK, Japan, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Italy, and Australia.)
--Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Feb. 16, 2006.

--Military Spending, over and above Iraq costs, in 2006: 48.7 percent
--Amount spent on Education in 2006: 6.7 percent
(White House Office of Management and Budget, Feb. 6, 2006)

--Average price of home heating oil on Jan. 3, 2000: $1.15 per gallon
--Average price of home heating oil on Jan. 1, 2007: $2.42 per gallon
(U.S. Energy Information Admin. Jan. 4, 2007)

--Average price of gasoline on Jan. 3, 2000: $1.31 per gallon
--Average price of gasoline on Jan. 1, 2007: $2.38 per gallon
(U.S. Energy Information Admin. Jan. 5, 2007)

--Exxon Mobil profits in 2000: $7.9 billion
--Exxon Mobil profits in 2006: $36.1 billion
(CNNMoney.com, accessed Jan. 19, 2007)

--Federal minimum wage in 2000: $5.15/hr
--Federal minimum wage in 2006: $5.15/hr
--Loss in purchasing power, full time worker annually: $1,562

--Salary of a full-time minimum wage employee without vacation: $10,712
--Average time for top CEOs to earn that sum: 2.06 hours
(Forbes Magazine. "What the Boss Makes." April 20, 2006)

--Americans without health insurance, 2000: 38.2 million
--Americans without health insurance, 2005: 46.6 million
(US Census Bureau, Sept. 2001; US Census Bureau, Aug. 2006)


Individuals gave most of $3B tsunami aid

A new study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University finds that individuals, corporations, and foundations in the United States donated a total of $3.16 billion toward relief efforts [for the December 2004 Asian tsunami].

The overwhelming majority of disaster relief giving came from the combined gifts of individuals nationwide -- not corporate or foundation gifts.

25 percent of American households that donated for tsunami relief gave a combined total of $2.78 billion.

Another $340 million came from corporations, and $40 million came from foundations.

[The Indianapolis Star]


The Need to Communicate with Local Beneficiaries

A founding principle of Family Care Foundation is that we always work with and through the grassroots, just what is being recommended here. Simply put, we often find that our partners, the grassroots organizations themselves, often have the best perspective on the solutions needed, as well as the appropriate means of evaluation.

Family Care Foundation has found it most effective to leverage local expertise and work through people closest to the action. Family Care Foundation’s local partner in Banda Aceh wisely suggested, "Immediately after the tsunami emergency everyone gave from their hearts, which is what was needed at the time. But now is the time to give using our heads."

On this subject of using our heads, allow us to repeat a comment that a local villager shared with our Family Care Foundation Programs Director when he visited Aceh province, commenting on why and how various aid agencies and NGOs could achieve a greater measure of success.
read more


Family Care Foundation Tsunami Rebuilding in Aceh

With our tsunami rebuilding efforts in Aceh province, Family Care Foundation has felt it best to concentrate our limited resources and efforts all in one location. And rather than choosing to undertake development in the capital, Banda Aceh, which has received the lion’s share of attention from the NGOs, to do so in a rural area outside the main city. Thus we chose the village of Pasi, Lhoong, in the district of Aceh Besar, which spans 28 villages, 24 of which were very hard hit.

So Pasi is the location where Family Care Foundation is creating a Family Care zone, where a medical center will be built, including a Family Care ambulance based there, and also where we’d undertake livelihood programs such as a fish farm and restaurant that will bring livelihood to locals. read more


More on Waste involved with Tsunami Rebuilding

Well past two years after the devastation of Aceh province by the tsunami, only 30% of those left homeless have gained access to permanent housing.

Among other reasons, these newly constructed houses are still lacking water, sewage, or electricity--or all three! read more

Waste involved with Tsunami Aid to Aceh

Largely due to a phenomenon where aid agencies seem loath to listen to the advice of the beneficiaries as to what is most needed, locals suggest that a staggering 80% of the boats donated to the fishing communities of Aceh Indonesia after the tsunami are not being used!

With this in mind, it is encouraging to note that all the boats that Family Care Foundation built are still in use in various fishing villages two years later, and among the 20% of boats that are in use by the fisher population, generating a livelihood for them and their families. read more


Aceh Tsunami Insights from Family Care Foundation

At the time that the tsunami struck Indonesia in late December 2004, the Free Aceh Movement of Aceh province was involved in a thirty-year conflict with the central government.

The regional conflict in Aceh was not to do with religion but the control of resources: oil, natural gas and timber. read more


Can't do the subject justice ...

The Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.

On December 12, 2003, $1.5 billion was shipped to Iraq, initially "the largest pay out of U.S. currency in Fed history," according to an e-mail cited by committee members.

It was followed by more than $2.4 billion on June 22, 2004, and $1.6 billion three days later. The CPA turned over sovereignty on June 30.

The special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, said in a January 2005 report that $8.8 billion was unaccounted for after being given to the Iraqi ministries.


March Madness Against Malaria

March is just around the corner, 64 teams are squaring off and millions of dollars are on the line. But the subject isn't college basketball -- it's malaria.

A group of hedge-fund managers have teamed up to raise money and boost awareness of the disease through an online fund-raising tournament dubbed Madness Against Malaria.

For every $5 raised, Madness Against Malaria will buy one bed net treated with insecticide to ward off disease-carrying mosquitoes. The nets will be distributed in malaria-prone regions by nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, including the International Federation of the Red Cross and Unicef.

Each year, 350 million to 500 million people world-wide get malaria, and more than one million die from it, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

[Excerpt of an article by Sally Beatty, The Wall Street Journal]


Famine amid plenty

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has at last admitted that food aid can distort local markets, helping to perpetuate the conditions that demand food aid in the first place. But it does not go far enough in addressing the root causes of famines persisting amid plenty.

Food aid is rarely bought locally. The United States, which gives more than half the world’s food aid, buys mostly from its own U.S. farmers. This food aid in kind destroys local markets. During the famine in northern Kenya last year, southern Kenyan farmers could not afford to drive their surplus up north, knowing it would be worthless on arrival.

In 1993, by the time food aid reached Somalia, a food crisis there was over; the recent harvest had been good. But as food aid inundated the market, prices fell by 75 percent, pushing many local farmers into further poverty and hunger.

The FAO says food insecurity, defined as a daily shortfall of 100 to 400 calories, affects 800 million people all the time or frequently. Most are among the 1.2 billion extremely poor, earning the equivalent of $1 a day or less.

This poverty has not been solved by aid (money or food); in fact aid often helps prevent reforms. Only economic growth can lift people out of poverty.

[Excerpt of an article by Luther Tweeten, a professor of economic policy at Ohio State University]


CIA analysis: No Iranian nuclear weapons drive

A classified draft CIA assessment has found no firm evidence of a secret drive by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as alleged by the White House, says a top US investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker.

The administration’s planning of a military option was made ”far more complicated” in recent months by a highly classified draft assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency “challenging the White House’s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb.”

“The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Hersh wrote, adding the CIA had declined to comment on that story.

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the CIA analysis and said the White House had been hostile to it, he wrote.

Iran meanwhile insists it will use the enriched uranium only to fuel nuclear power stations, something it is permitted to do as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

[Source: Agence France-Presse]

But isn’t Iran a main foe in Iraq?

The White House has manufactured a crisis that pits the United States against Iran: Bush’s pledge to use U.S. military and intelligence capabilities against alleged Iranian activity in Iraq; the dispatch of a second U.S. aircraft carrier task force to the Gulf; the shipment of Patriot missile batteries to defend American-allied Arab Gulf sheikhdoms; the seizure of several teams of Iranian diplomats and personnel in Baghdad and Irbil; and the report that the White House had issued “kill or capture” orders to U.S. forces in Iraq who encounter Iranian operatives. Meanwhile, the United States has stepped up pressure on U.S. allies and Western banks to stop doing business as usual with Iran.

At the same time, the administration has issued a series of wildly inflated charges that Iran is involved in masterminding the Iraqi insurgency, is providing weapons and IED explosive devices that are killing U.S. troops and, most recently, was behind a well-coordinated raid in Karbala.

Iran has virtually nothing to do with the Iraqi resistance movement, which is commanded and staffed by Sunni Arab military officers and Baathists. They consider Iran to be a deadly foe. The vast majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq are victims of this well-organized, mass-based insurgency – but it is certain that none of their weapons, IEDs or training comes from Iran.

That’s not to say that Iran does not have multiple, and powerful, ties to virtually all of Iraq’s Shiite political elite and to some Kurdish warlords.

Nevertheless, the hardliners and neoconservatives in the administration—led, as always, by Dick Cheney—have been pushing for five years for a confrontation with Iran, and from the beginning they saw the war in Iraq as only one step in that direction.

[Excerpt of an article by Robert Dreyfuss, Information Clearing House]


Audit: Millions in Iraq reconstruction aid wasted

Tens of millions of U.S. dollars have been wasted in Iraq reconstruction aid, investigators say. The quarterly audit by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is the latest to paint a grim picture of waste, fraud and frustration in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has cost taxpayers more than $300 billion and left the region near civil war.

The audit comes as President Bush is pressing Congress to approve $1.2 billion in new reconstruction aid as part of his broader plan to stabilize Iraq by sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to Baghdad and Anbar province.

According to the report, the State Department paid $43.8 million to contractor DynCorp International for the residential camp for police training personnel outside of Baghdad's Adnan Palace grounds that has stood empty for months.

Also according to the report, Bowen's office opened 27 new criminal probes in the last quarter, bringing the total number of active cases to 78. Twenty-three are awaiting prosecutorial action by the Justice Department, most of them centering on charges of bribery and kickbacks.

The government's "most significant challenge continues to be strengthening rule-of-law institutions -- the judiciary, prisons and the police," the report said. "The United States has spent billions of dollars in this area, with limited success to date."

[Associated Press]


Bush Continues to Unite the World... Against Him

More people around the world have an unfavorable opinion of U.S. policies than at any time in recent memory, according to a new BBC poll. The survey, which polled more than 26,000 people in 25 countries, found that a 49 percent plurality overall believes the U.S. is playing a "mainly negative" role in the world today, compared to less than a third (32 percent) who said Washington's influence was "mainly positive."

And in the 18 countries where respondents were asked the same question in each of the past two years, the latest poll found a substantial drop in the percentage who said they viewed U.S. influence as positive, from 40 percent (in 2005) to 29 percent (in 2007).

"According to world public opinion, these days the U.S. government hardly seems to be able to do anything right," said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) which, along with Canada-based Globescan, conducted the survey.

Nearly three in four respondents overall (73 percent) said they disapproved of Washington's role in the Iraq war.

Opposition to the U.S. role in the conflict in Lebanon, during which Washington strongly backed Israel, was particularly intense in Argentina (79 percent "strongly disapproved of the U.S. role), Egypt (78 percent), Lebanon itself (76 percent), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (71 percent), France and Brazil (63 percent).

Sixty percent of respondents overall said they disapproved of Washington's handling of Iran's nuclear program.

On global warming, opposition to the Bush administration's policies was highest among European nations, particularly France and Germany (86 percent), Britain and Portugal (79 percent), and Italy (74 percent), all of which have ratified the Kyoto Protocol.


Immunization rates hit record high in developing countries

Launched in 2000 at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the GAVI Alliance (formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) is a public-private partnership focused on increasing children's access to vaccines in poor countries. includes among its partners developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialized and developing countries, research and technical agencies, NGOs, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It is estimated that more than 2.3 million early deaths will have been prevented as a result of support by GAVI up to the end of 2006. GAVI's efforts are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on child health, which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

Of the more than 10 million children who die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, 2.5 million die from diseases that could be prevented with currently available or new vaccines.
New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the GAVI Alliance has brought immunization rates to record highs in poor countries.

The WHO data indicates that immunizations in 2006 alone prevented 600,000 future deaths.