U.S. Foundations should do more

Thanks to a healthy stock market, an increase in the number of new foundations and in “pass-through” foundations by younger donors, and the formation of operating foundations by pharmaceutical firms, giving by the 71,000 grantmaking foundations in the U.S. grew in 2006, up 11.7 percent, according to a new report by the Foundation Center.

But foundations are not sharing as much of their wealth or spending or investing it as effectively as they could.

Foundations continue to fight proposals for an increase, from 5 percent currently, in the share of their assets they are required to payout in grants and overhead.

And as a recent report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy concludes, foundations are falling woefully short in the level of the critical operating support they provide to nonprofits.

The Foundation Center says the U.S. is experiencing a “golden age of philanthropy.”

While foundations may indeed be enjoying a golden age, too many of them are hoarding their gold.

[Excerpt of an article by Todd Cohen, Philanthropy Journal]


Economic Armageddon

A ton of data demonstrate how crazy our economic system has become where a relatively few receive astronomical gains that no rational person could see as justified. One study tracked home ownership data for 488 CEOs in the S&P 500 Index set of companies: The typical home of the CEOs has 12 rooms, sits on 5.37 acres, and carries a $3.1 million price-tag.

Companies big enough to rate S&P 500 status hiked their median CEO pay by 23.78 percent in 2006 (to $14.8 million). In comparison, U.S. worker weekly wages rose just 3.5 percent in 2006.

From another study we learn that pay for American college presidents over the past decade has jumped seven times faster than pay for college faculty.

Economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics found that the richest 10 percent of the U.S. population received 44 percent of the pretax income in 2005. This was the highest since the 1920s and 1930s.

What the future holds for the victimized middle class will depend on the uncontrolled greed of the wealthy Upper Class and its control of the political system. The rich will retreat to their walled, protected and well stocked havens.

Lower Class people will be sacrificed – economic slaves fighting to survive in a medieval, ugly and bleak world that so many science fiction stories have portrayed.

[Joel S. Hirschhorn]


Philanthropy on a shoestring

I met an interesting man the other day. His name is Marc Gold, and he travels around the world giving money away. He’s carried out his one-man mission in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, The Philippines, and elsewhere.

Mr. Gold is not wealthy, as far as I know. Most of the money he distributes is donated by friends and acquaintances. And the sums he gives away are fairly modest $20 here, $100 there. Still, there is something profound about his brand of under-the-radar, freelance philanthropy.“You can accomplish so much with so little,” he said. “And you can do it face-to-face, one on one.”

When Marc Gold was 6 years old, he said, he vowed that his life had to be about something, that it had to have a purpose. When he was in his thirties he revisited that boyhood vow, and decided he was coming up short.“I was forced to give myself a pretty low grade,” he said. “I really had to rethink how I was living my life, and what I was accomplishing.”

Gold went to India and volunteered with Mother Teresa. Later, in Darjeeling, he met a woman suffering with almost unbearable pain in her ears. He managed to find an ear-nose-and-throat specialist a couple of hours away, and one dollar’s worth of antibiotics cured her. For another $30 Gold was able to get the woman a hearing aid.

“She let me flip on the switch to turn the hearing aid on,” he said. “The look on her face, when she realized she could hear again, transformed me. It was a revelation. $31 had turned this woman’s life around.”

Gold returned to the U.S., compiled a list of 100 friends, wrote a letter describing the poverty he had seen, and asking them to help. That first fundraising effort netted $2,200, which he distributed in India.“I didn’t really have a plan,” he said, “especially at first. I was like a cat following a string. Except in my case the string led to people who needed help. Maybe they needed a few chickens, or a sewing machine, some medicine, or a few dollars for building materials. Those things may not seem like a lot, but, believe me, they can change someone’s life.”

That first trip was in 1989. Since then, Gold has made 15 more trips to India, three to Afghanistan, and many more to several southeast Asian countries. This year he plans to visit Mongolia and Borneo; next year Rwanda, Malawi and Niger. His business card says he is the director of the 100 Friends Project, though he admits it is pretty much a one-man operation.

“I go where I want, and do what I want, and make decisions on the spot about where I think I can help. With me it’s simple: you give the money to me, I give it to people who need it, I report back to you.”

Each year Gold has managed to raise more money. Last year he brought in $80,000, and this year he’s shooting for $100,000. That would be a record for him. Still, he knows that, in the world of foundations and aid organizations, even that amount is pitifully small.“But that’s not the point,” he told me. “This is not about solving the world’s problems single-handedly. It’s not as if there were only two choices: to either help every person in the world or do absolutely nothing. There’s a third choice, and that is to do whatever you can do. OXFAM can’t eliminate world poverty, and neither can the U.N., and neither can Bill Gates. But we can all do what we can do. And that’s what matters.”

[Excerpt of an article by Clay Scott, Helena Independent Record]


Slain Virgina Tech students and the Slain of Iraq

I found myself in total empathy with the parents of the slain college students at Virgina Tech. Having lost a child of my own a year ago, I understand intimately the pain which they now must bear.

As the news moved on to the war in Iraq, so did my thoughts. Without taking a thing from the sympathy for the Blacksburg parents, I realized that these young people who are dying in Iraq are contemporaries of the college kids. Who grieves for them?

Those who fell in service to our country are hidden from our sight and rarely mentioned by name unless they qualify as "heroes". They fly home under cover of night and then are treated as baggage on commercial flights until they are taken to their home town. Their family, friends, and neighbors turn out for their funeral with none taking notice.

The funeral over, the families go home to deal with their own desolation as they reflect on the life that was lost and the hopes and dreams that will never come to fruition. They will forever wonder why.

Now, with the "all-volunteer army", the fear and grief fall upon young wives and small children in most cases as the fighting is done by a few who are having their service extended until it must seem to them that the only way home is "in a box". When they are killed, they are little more than numbers on a tote board and little grief is known outside their intimate circle. Their survivors will not have the comfort that is brought about by televised funeral services, on-camera interviews, and the knowledge that the whole nation is sharing their grief.

[Excerpt of a post by Mary Pitt]


A Budget For Saving Civilization

Mobilizing to save civilization means restructuring the economy, restoring the economy’s natural support systems, eradicating poverty, and stabilizing population. We have the technologies, economic instruments, and financial resources to do this.

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University’s Earth Institute sums it up well: “The tragic irony of this moment is that the rich countries are so rich and the poor so poor that a few added tenths of one percent of GNP from the rich ones ramped up over the coming decades could do what was never before possible in human history: ensure that the basic needs of health and education are met for all impoverished children in this world. How many more tragedies will we suffer in this country before we wake up to our capacity to help make the world a safer and more prosperous place not only through military might, but through the gift of life itself?”

Unfortunately, the United States continues to focus on building an ever-stronger military, largely ignoring the threats posed by continuing environmental deterioration, poverty, and population growth.

U.S. military spending is now roughly equal to that of all other countries combined. As the late Eugene Carroll, Jr., a retired admiral, astutely observed, “For forty-five years of the Cold War we were in an arms race with the Soviet Union. Now it appears we are in an arms race with ourselves.”

Shifting one sixth of the world military budget to a budget would be more than adequate to move the world onto a path that would sustain progress.

[Excerpt of an adaptation from Chapter 13, “Building a New Future,” by Lester R. Brown]


A Touch of Sarcasm concerning our Christian Nation

We are a nation founded upon bedrock principles of Christianity.

Would Christ not have approved of chattel slavery, the Native American genocide, and the millions of "savages" we have slaughtered to expand our borders and to maintain "Pax Americana?" Those who have died to sustain our peace and prosperity were but martyrs for a cause greater than themselves. In a sense, each one of them was a little Jesus.

Jesus certainly would have approved of American Capitalism. He was a fisher of men. Our bourgeois are fishers of men’s wealth. Those who reach the apex of our system’s hierarchy enable Christianity to flourish.

More importantly, by condemning a large percentage of the population to economic struggle or poverty, they present us with an endless supply of hungry, broken people to whom we can minister and tend.

Clearly we Americans are fulfilling our divine mission to maintain the moral order of the world each day. We continue to drive a stake through the heart of Godless Communism. We torture terrorists. We execute murderers. We topple dictators, spread liberty, and punish Islamofascist nations harshly.

[Excerpt of an article by Jason Miller, associate editor of Cyrano's Journal Online]


The World Bank and the World’s Poor

Pity Paul Wolfowitz: Every time he tries regime change, he triggers an insurrection.

The latest revolt was launched by World Bank staffers and Western aid leaders in response to the revelation that Wolfowitz -- who had made a crusade against corruption the hallmark of his bumpy tenure as president of the World Bank -- may have awarded his companion a $60,000 pay increase.

Wolfowitz's arrogant belief was that the bank could overhaul the often nasty politics of the world's poor countries. All of this overreaching bogged the bank down, making it less capable than ever of delivering even the simplest things that alleviate the sufferings of the world's poor -- medicine, water, food. Frustrated, suspicious and resentful, the staff was ripe for revolt.

A staff that had always hated working for the intellectual architect of the Iraq war was now quite literally shouting for his resignation, and Wolfowitz was left wandering the corridors of the bank looking for a Green Zone in which to hide.

All of which leaves the bank in rocky shape. The best and the brightest of its staff have been leaving in a steady, demoralized exodus, and poor nations are now deserting the bank to seek loans from private capital markets or grants from aid donors like China, who are in it for No. 1.

Meanwhile, new private foundations (the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google.org and so on) are taking over traditional bank areas such as health and agriculture. Add to that the debacle over Wolfowitz's sweetheart deal, and you have a bank facing the gravest crisis in its six-decades-old history.

[Excerpt of an article by William Easterly, The Washington Post]


Who is the WE fighting this war?

Rep. Jack Murtha commenting on who is fighting the War:

It is interesting to hear the gentleman say "we", as in "we fight", or "we aren't going to give up."

Let me tell you something, we aren't fighting this war. It's the troops overseas, and when I talk to the families, when I go to the hospitals, I see the results of this war.


The media’s hierarchy of death

Why do 32 deaths in Virginia receive blanket coverage while nearly 200 fatalities in Iraq are barely reported?

Thirty-two die in American university shooting. Result? Huge media coverage in the US and Britain.

In Iraq, almost 200 die about the same time, arguably the worst day of carnage in that beleaguered country since the coalition invasion. Result? Coverage so restrained as to be, in many cases, totally negligible. Why?

General reasons first. The media operate what amounts to a hierarchy of death. Here are the criteria: foreign deaths always rank below domestic deaths. Similarly, on the basis that all news is local, deaths at home provide human interest stories that people want to know about, while the deaths of foreigners are merely statistics.

Now let's get down to some other controversial home truths. The deaths of non-white people in foreign parts - and, I would contend, often at home - are never accorded equal status by the white, western media. The deaths of Arabs and Muslims (and, in many media eyes, there is no difference) are overlooked because they are, variously, anti-western, anti-Christian or anti-capitalist, or all three, and are therefore undeserving of sympathy. In other words, it's racist.

Finally, specific reasons. Iraq is considered to be a basket case.

There's no hope. We cannot understand it. Sunni v Shia (like Catholic v Protestant) is surely too difficult to resolve. There's no point in going into depth about deaths among fanatics and fundamentalists. They are, as I said earlier, just statistics now.

[Excerpt of an article by Roy Greenslade, The Guardian]

The Apostles of Deception

I would have to agree with much of what Charles Sullivan, a social justice activist writes on this great Christian nation:

I have always been wary of organized religion.

What passes for Christianity is often not the genuine article. Most often, a perverted version of Christianity gives the appearance of moral credence to war and conquest.

We have a responsibility to the truth, to justice, the earth, and toward one another that must supersede all else, if we are the moral beings we purport to be. That is why each of us is endowed with a conscience. We must decide right and wrong for ourselves and struggle against the swift current of public opinion more often than not.

Millions of Americans claim to follow Jesus. Some even claim that we are a Christian nation. Yet every generation seems to crucify Christ all over again, to nail him to the cross and parade him through the streets with a crown of thorns on his head. It is no irony that the most Christ-like among us today continue to be crucified by the money changers living in the present.

Within the religious hierarchy the high priests of fraud are treated like deities with a direct conduit to god, entitled to power and privileges that ordinary citizens do not have. They are no better than fortune tellers dressed in bright robes. Once again they have diverted the masses from the real path to salvation and led them astray. They have made a mockery of humankind’s quest for understanding and justice.

It was they who, in the words of song writer Woody Guthrie, “laid poor Jesus in his grave”. They do it every time.


The Magnitude of U.S. Military Spending

Even without the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are fast surpassing half a trillion dollars, U.S. military spending is now the largest item in the federal budget.

Officially, it is the second highest item after Social Security payments. But Social Security is a self-financing trust fund. So, in reality, military spending is the highest budget item.

The Pentagon budget for the current fiscal year (2007) is about $456 billion. President Bush’s proposed increase of 10% for next year will raise this figure to over half a trillion dollars, that is, $501.6 billion for fiscal year 2008. A proposed supplemental appropriation to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq “brings proposed military spending for FY 2008 to $647.2 billion, the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II—higher than Vietnam, higher than Korea, higher than the peak of the Reagan buildup.”

Using official budget figures, William D. Hartung, Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York, provides a number of helpful comparisons:
- Proposed U.S. military spending for FY 2008 is larger than military spending by all of the other nations in the world combined.
- At $141.7 billion, this year's proposed spending on the Iraq war is larger than the military budgets of China and Russia combined. Total U.S. military spending for FY2008 is roughly ten times the military budget of the second largest military spending country in the world, China.
- Proposed U.S. military spending is larger than the combined gross domestic products (GDP) of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The FY 2008 military budget proposal is more than 30 times higher than all spending on State Department operations and non-military foreign aid combined.
- The FY 2008 military budget is over 120 times higher than the roughly $5 billion per year the U.S. government spends on combating global warming.
- The FY 2008 military spending represents 58 cents out of every dollar spent by the U.S. government on discretionary programs: education, health, housing assistance, international affairs, natural resources and environment, justice, veterans’ benefits, science and space, transportation, training/employment and social services, economic development, and several more items.

[Excerpt of an article by Ismael Hossein-zadeh, an economics professor at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa]


US cannot be trusted to act responsibly in the world: global poll

There is widespread global concern that the United States cannot be trusted to act responsibly in the world, according to a multinational poll released Wednesday. But while there is broad international frustration with how the United States conducts its foreign policy, few people around the world want the United States to completely back off its role as a global policeman, the poll found.

A majority of respondents in Argentina (84 percent), Peru (80 percent), Russia (73 percent) France (72 percent), Armenia (58 percent), Indonesia (64 percent), China (59 percent), Thailand (56 percent), South Korea (53 percent) and India (52 percent) and more than a third of those in Australia (40 percent) and Ukraine (37 percent) answered "not at all" or "not very much" when asked how much they trusted the US "to act responsibly in the world," the poll found.

More than three out of four Americans think their country tends to take on the role of international enforcer more than it should.

Large majorities elsewhere also felt that way: France at 89 percent, Australia at 80 percent, China at 77 percent, Russia at 76 percent, Peru at 76 percent, the Palestinian territories at 74 percent, South Korea at 73 percent, Indonesia at 68 percent, Ukraine at 67 percent, Armenia at 63 percent, Argentina at 62 percent and India at 53 percent.



Why we must do more to help the world's hungry

One child dies every 5 seconds of hunger and related diseases.

You have no doubt run across these sad statistics before, perhaps in a television appeal or a news article. Frankly, they are hard to get your mind around and a bit paralyzing. It's difficult to imagine all that loss of innocent life. But if you had the opportunity, as I have, to see some of these young children, to hold them in your arms and look into the eyes of their pleading mothers, the statistics become far too real. And they haunt you.

I recall all too vividly the first time I held a dying child in Africa. First, there was an incredible sorrow and, then quickly after, a deep shame. How could we -- how could I -- let this happen? The child's face was blank, but somehow I still saw a plea in it. I certainly saw a plea in the face of his mother, who I know thought that somehow I could miraculously help.

I couldn't. It was already too late. How is this still happening in 2007? We are so rich in the United States, Europe and Japan that we watch sports and soap operas on expensive cell phones and the value of the food we throw away far exceeds what it would cost to feed all the world's orphans and refugees.

Do I sound like I am pushing some global welfare scheme? I am not. But I am really frustrated and ashamed that we tolerate hunger and malnutrition on the scale that it still exists today. We so clearly have the capacity to end it.

According to the World Health Organization, hunger and malnutrition are still the single biggest threat to health worldwide, claiming more lives than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

So why aren't we getting the traction we need to do something about them? I suspect that many people in the West do not really believe hunger is as lethal as we know it is. In the United States we have been incredibly prosperous for decades now, and we see the world through the lens of our own daily experience.

Each of us can reach out to some less-fortunate child who needs us. After all, isn't that what you would want if your child were starving?

[Excerpt of an Indianapolis Star article in the by James Morris, just retired executive director of the United Nations World Food Program]


Philanthropy can eclipse G8 on poverty

Wealthy philanthropists have the potential to do more than the Group of Eight leading nations to lift Africa out of poverty, according to Jeff Sachs, special adviser to the United Nations secretary-general.

Mr Sachs told the Financial Times that the financial clout of the likes of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and international investor Warren Buffett, who have pledged billions of dollars to global health and education, could eclipse flagging governmental initiatives.

“The Rockefeller Foundation was the world’s most important development institution of the 20th century, and the Gates Foundation can be that of the 21st century,” he said. “Gates can make a huge difference if they hit the right model.”

Mr Sachs proposed that other, less wealthy people could contribute to a new private sector foundation that could help speed the elimination of diseases and tackle specific challenges.

“There are 950 billionaires whose wealth is estimated at $3.5 trillion [$3,500bn]. An annual 5 per cent ‘foundation’ payout would be $175bn per year – that would do it. Then we don’t need the G8 but 950 people on the Forbes list,” said Mr Sachs.

[Excerpt of an article by By Leyla Boulton and James Lamont, The Financial Times]


Iraq Has Two Virginia Techs Every Day

I keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the "situation is improving" in Iraq.

The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day.

[Every day in Iraq] 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars.

They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg.

We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?

[Excerpt of an article by Juan Cole]

After Gleneagles: Aid to Africa from rich G8 countries remains static

Aid from rich countries to Africa remained static last year even though G8 leaders promised in 2005 to spend $50bn more each year to 2010 on aid, with half the rise going to sub-Saharan Africa. The so-called Gleneagles commitments were championed by Tony Blair, UK prime minister, and Gordon Brown, his chancellor.
--Jeff Sachs, special adviser to the United Nations secretary-general, speaking at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Mr Sachs, complaining about the failure of governments to keep their aid promises, was answering a question about the potential impact of a new wave of philanthropic giving by wealthy individuals and corporations:

“Groups like Rotary have done a lot, have brought down polio 100-fold,” he said, referring to a public-private partnership started in 2003 to eradicate polio also involving the UN, the World Bank and the Gates Foundation. This work is all based on the principle that “economic development is about applying technology on a mass scale”.

But Mr Sachs also criticised what he described as the shrinking role of the World Bank as it had pursued a single-minded focus on fighting corruption under its president, Paul Wolfowitz. “They behave like there’s an ogre out there called corruption and [the World Bank] can’t do anything because we have to tackle the beast first.”

[Excerpt of an article by By Leyla Boulton and James Lamont, The Financial Times]


Iraqi Refugees Speak of Escape from Hell

Iraqi refugees scattered around Damascus describe hellish conditions in the country they managed to leave behind.

"I used to work with the Americans near Kut (in the south)," Sa'ad Hussein, a 34-year-old electrical engineer told IPS. "I worked for Kellogg, Brown & Root in construction of an Iraqi base there, until I returned to Baghdad and found a death threat written on a paper which was slipped under my door. I had to flee."

Hussein, who left three months back, described Baghdad as a "city of ghosts" where black banners of death announcements can be seen hanging on most streets. The city, he said, lives on an hour of electricity a day, and there are no jobs to be had.

Security, electricity and potable water supply, healthcare and unemployment are all much worse than during the reign of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, refugees say.

"So many Iraqis never leave their homes now because they are too afraid to go out due to the militias," Abdul Abdulla, a 68-year-old man who fled Baghdad with his family three months ago told IPS. "We stay in our homes, but even then some people have been pulled out of their own houses," he added. "These death squads arrived after (former U.S. ambassador John) Negroponte arrived. And the Iraqi Government is definitely involved because they depend on them (militias)."

"I was injured because I was near a car bomb which killed my daughter," Eman Abdul Rahid, a 46-year-old mother from Baghdad who fled her home late last year told IPS. "There is killing, and the threat of killing, and explosions daily in Baghdad."

"America is the reason why Iraq was invaded, so we would like the American administration to give aid to us refugees," she added. "I would like people to read this and tell Bush to help us."

More than 600 people were reported killed in sectarian violence across Iraq last week, and car bombings continue to hit the capital.

[Excerpt of an article by Dahr Jamail, Inter Press News Service Agency]

Thoughts to Ponder from George Orwell

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

"They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening."

--George Orwell


Massive Iraqi refugee crisis

The Middle East is in the throes of the largest refugee crisis since the Palestinian exodus from Israel in 1948.

The mass flight out of and within Iraq is ravaging basic services and commerce, swamping neighboring nations with nearly 2 million refugees and building intense pressure for emigration to Europe and the United States, according to the United Nations and refugee experts.

Newsweek reports that the mass flight of Iraqis from their homeland has dwindled the educated class as well. "The exodus has...hollowed out Iraq's most skilled classes—doctors, engineers, managers and bureaucrats," the article reads.

At least 40,000 Iraqis a month are arriving in Syria, according to U.N. staffers monitoring the border. Refugees have also fled to Iran, and "tens of thousands" are headed to Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf states and Europe," the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

Iraqi Child Refugees Require Assistance in Host Countries

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization assisting families in Jordan, is calling for global action on behalf of young Iraqi refugees:

As violence in Iraq continues to add to the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East in half a century, World Vision has launched a combined advocacy and relief effort to assist children and families fleeing to neighboring countries. Some 2 million Iraqis have left their volatile homeland and many are struggling to cope without access to health care, legal employment or education for their children in host countries.

"This is largely a hidden crisis, but we want to help change that," says Joe Mettimano, director of public policy and advocacy for World Vision. "World Vision is calling on the international community to ensure adequate shelter, health care, education, and other critical services for these children, whose families are increasingly struggling to meet basic needs."

The Christian humanitarian organization will present detailed recommendations at the April 17-18 U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conference in Geneva, including the following:

- Governments must provide full funding for the UN appeal and non-governmental organizations like World Vision to provide health care, education, food and household items, and social programs needed by Iraqi children and other vulnerable refugees.
- The international community must ensure basic protections, religious freedoms and human rights for Iraqi refugee families caught in legal limbo.
- The international community must ensure that borders in the region are kept open to Iraqi families fleeing life-threatening violence, and that religious minorities and other vulnerable groups are not forced to return.

"We're talking about children who have witnessed violence and death repeatedly in their home country," says Rein Paulsen, World Vision's senior director for emergency response. “Now, without education, basic protections or job opportunities for their parents, these vulnerable children are facing a future of poverty and disenfranchisement in the region."



Global Philanthropy Forum explores new way of giving

Google, presently hosting Global Philanthropy Forum’s annual gathering, is an acknowledgment of the power of Silicon Valley corporate giving and its impact in the world of philanthropy.

"Philanthropy has always had innovation in its DNA. I see that is being ratcheted up," said Jane Wales, founding president of the forum and CEO of its parent organization, the World Affairs Council of Northern California. "What already was an inventive sector now has an infusion of talent of young, energetic, socially conscious people who have gained new wealth, a new class of philanthropist."

Not only are 21st century philanthropists younger than their predecessors (they want to be alive to see their good works, quips Wales), but they also are eager to find systematic solutions to larger problems and combine market-based solutions, even profitable ones, with their charitable notions.

"They are financing social change," said Wales, with initiatives `largely shaped by their own private sector experience."

They invest in social causes as they would the stock market or a start-up, but the return is measured not only in financial viability but also what impact the initiative has in solving global problems. The new hybrid model has been dubbed "philanthrocapitalism" and its practitioners "philanthroprenuers."

"Whatever you call it," Rodin said, "capital is being used more strategically and leverage is more critical than ever."

Philanthropy is coming into a golden age of sorts, several participants said. "It's gone mainstream. The richest people in the world are addressing the biggest problems in the world," said Peter Wheller, a former Morgan Stanley executive who runs a British philanthropy.

[Excerpt of an article by Mary Anne Ostrom, San Jose Mercury]


Military Spending Gets 40% of Your Income Tax Dollar

As taxpayers prepare to meet this year's April 16th tax deadline, they may want to consider that almost 40 cents of every tax dollar is spent on past and present military spending, according to a newly released publication by the National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-profit research organization that examines the local impact of federal spending policies.

In 2006, according to the National Priorities Project, current military spending accounted for 27 cents of every income tax dollar paid. Additionally, NPP determined that 9 cents of every federal income tax dollar paid today could be attributed to borrowing to pay for past wars and military build-ups. Finally, disability payments, health care and other benefits accrued to veterans made up a little over 3 cents of the federal income tax dollar, bringing total military spending up to close to 40 cents of every tax dollar.

Oh, yes, and beyond military spending, another large area of spending is interest on the debt at 19 cents.

By comparison:
- Preventive security measures, such as diplomacy, economic development assistance and locking down nuclear materials, amounted to three-quarters of a penny.
- Investing in renewable energy and conservation received hundredths of a penny of the federal income tax dollar.
- Domestic needs such as affordable housing and nutrition claimed two and three cents, respectively.


U.S. to send $59 million to Palestinians' Abbas

$59 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinians (down from an original $86 million offer) has been cleared for transfer to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said Tuesday.

The United States is sending the money directly to Abbas to bypass the portion of the government controlled by the militant group Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group.

Last year, Hamas won the Palestinian elections, ending decades of rule by the Fatah party. Because Hamas refused to accept Israel and call for an end to terrorist attacks, the United States and the European Union cut off funding to the Palestinian government. The cutoff paralyzed the Palestinian government.


US court unfreezes other Palestinian money

A US appeals court has unblocked 30 million dollars belonging to the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), the authority's head said.

George al Abed, the authority's governor, said the court decided earlier this month that the PMA is independent of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the money should be released.

The money had been frozen following a law suit by the family of an American-Israeli who was killed by Palestinian militants. The courts ruled in favor of the family and froze Palestinian funds held in the US.

However, the appeals court in New York ruled that the PMA's money could not be held for funds owed by the PA. The PMA will now be able to continue operations in the US.

[ Deutsche Presse-Agentur]


Worldwide concert to raise climate awareness

Live Earth concerts will be held July 7 in cities around the world, including London, aimed at raising climate change awareness.

Madonna, the Beastie Boys and Black Eyed Peas will headline the concert at Wembley stadium in London. They will be joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Keane, Foo Fighters and others.

Headliners for the U.S. concert at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, include Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Kanye West, Rihanna, John Mayer, Smashing Pumpkins and Fall Out Boy, it was announced Tuesday.

Other shows will take place in Shanghai, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; Sydney, Australia; Tokyo; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The concerts mark the start of a new campaign called Save Our Selves, The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis. Proceeds will create a foundation to combat climate change led by The Alliance for Climate Protection, which is chaired by former Vice President Al Gore.



Globalizing Philanthropy: Jeff Skoll's Changing World

At the recent fourth annual Skoll World Forum, leaders in social entrepreneurship from around the world gathered at the University of Oxford's Said Business School.

They brought with them touching human stories from the field, ideas about innovation in programming and finance, and seemingly boundless optimism about fomenting social change.
Through his foundation and the Skoll Centre at Oxford, eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll has emerged as the leading light of the social entrepreneurship movement, which began as early as the 1980s, when technically savvy entrepreneurial types first sought to bring their brand of disruptive change to the world's problems.

Skoll may be best known these days as the man who financed An Inconvenient Truth, and indeed he referred to the film and to Oscar winner (and Nobel nominee) Al Gore during remarks under the dome of Christopher Wren's 17th century Sheldonian hall at Oxford.

Skoll said that this "is a changing time for philanthropy," and that much of the focus these days is on bringing business practices to philanthropy.

[Excerpt from The Huffington Post]


Architect for India's Poor, Dies

Laurie Baker, a British-born architect who spent more than 60 years in India building homes that were ecologically sound and affordable for the poor, has died. He was 90.

Baker used local, mostly inexpensive materials to construct quality buildings all over India in what became known as the Laurie Baker style. His technique allowed natural movement of air to cool interiors in the sweltering southern state of Kerala, Baker's home for decades.

Baker and several other architects founded the Center Of Science and Technology For Rural Development, which continues to provide quality housing for poor families.

"For him low-cost did not mean low quality. It was all about using sustainable materials properly," said Sajan P.B., an architect who worked with Baker for more than 17 years.

Baker arrived in India in 1945 on his way home to Birmingham after working with a medical team in remote parts of China. A year later, he answered an advertisement placed by a Christian charity group called Mission to Lepers looking for architects to build hospitals in India. He ended up staying the country, moving to Trivandrum in 1970 and receiving Indian citizenship in 1988.

[The Washington Post]


What would Jesus really do?

Ask the nonreligious what being a Christian today means, and based on what we see and read, it's a good bet they will say that followers of Jesus Christ are preoccupied with abortion and homosexuality.

Poverty? Whatever. Homelessness? An afterthought. A widening gap between the have and have-nots? Immaterial.

The point is that being a Christian should be about more than abortion and homosexuality, and it's high time that those not considered a part of the religious right expose the hypocrisy of our brothers and sisters in Christianity and take back the faith. Many people believe we are engaged in a holy war. And we are. But it's not with Muslims. The real war -- ­ the silent war ­-- is being engaged among Christians, and that's what we must set our sights on.

As we celebrate Holy Week, our focus is on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But aren't we also to recommit ourselves to live more like Jesus? Did Jesus spend his time focusing on all that he didn't like, or did Jesus raise the consciousness of the people to understand love, compassion and teach them about following the will of God?

I've grown tired of people who pimp God. That's right; we have a litany of individuals today who are holy, holy, holy, sing hallelujah, talk about how they love the Lord, but when it's time to walk the walk, somehow the spirit evaporates.

[Excerpt of an article by Roland Martin, a talk-show host on WVON-AM in Chicago, contributing to CNN]


One man's campaign against U.S. federal debt

David M. Walker, the nation's top accountant, is touring the country to warn Americans about the consequences of a federal debt he says is on an unsustainable course. Walker, who heads the General Accountability Office (GAO), has visited college campuses, spoken to lawmakers in Washington and toured 19 states in the last year and a half.

He plans to continue through next year and is focusing on states that could affect the 2008 presidential race, in hopes that candidates will heed his message. "If [the candidates] don't make [the debt] one of their top three priorities, in my opinion, they don't deserve to be president and we can't afford for them to be president," he told CNN.

The federal debt has soared during the last two decades -- from $2.13 trillion in 1986, to $5.22 trillion in 1996, and $8.51 trillion in 2006. The federal debt now stands near $9 trillion. Click for running figure

The way programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are structured, the government will incur an additional debt of $50 trillion during the next 20 years, according to GAO figures.

The $50 trillion total amounts to about $440,000 per American household, Walker said.

[Excerpt of an article by Kyle Almond, CNN]

The U.S. Federal Debt for Dummies

1. The federal debt increases every time there is a budget deficit at the end of the fiscal year.
2. A budget deficit occurs when the government spends more than it receives in revenue, as it has for the past five fiscal years.
3. The government makes up the difference by printing and selling Treasury bills and bonds, which are increasingly being bought by overseas investors looking to profit from the interest.
4. More than three-quarters of the federal budget deficit from March 2001 through September 2006 was underwritten by overseas investors.
5. Such financing is not necessarily a bad thing for the average American because it has helped keep interest rates relatively low.
6. Meanwhile, as a result of existing debt, the United States has less money to spend on infrastructure, technology and education -- improvements needed for the country to remain competitive in the global market.
7. Observers are also concerned that interest rates could rise if the federal government doesn't show more fiscal responsibility. For example, a country that typically lends money to the United States could begin charging higher interests rates on the loan out of concern for what it sees as an uncertain U.S. financial future.
8. In the worst-case scenario, other countries -- instead of just charging higher interest rates -- could decide to take their money elsewhere. For example, a series of international crises or a collapse in U.S. home values, could cause countries to move their investment out of the United States.
[Excerpt of an article by Kyle Almond, CNN]


Movies shot for change

Albie Hecht is an old hand at philanthropy. The former Nickelodeon president who greenlighted such hits as "SpongeBob SquarePants" has long been generous to children's charities. He has produced public service announcements and telethons, organized community outreach projects and created the Big Help, a campaign aimed at getting kids to participate in community service.

But when Hecht became concerned about the plight of young African war refugees, he decided to try something new: He financed a documentary about Ugandan schoolchildren who are struggling with the ravages of that country's 20-year civil war while competing in a national music contest.

His film, "War/Dance," won the documentary directing award at the Sundance Film Festival last month. "I was at Viacom for 13 years being a big producer," Hecht said. "Having gone through that, I really wanted … to do something personal."

Call them "filmanthropists." They have deep pockets and issue-driven agendas. Rather than make high-class dramas that might carry some mild social message, these producers are turning out full-blown advocacy movies.

[The Los Angeles Times]


On the eve of the trial of "Chemical Ali"

Who was the first high government official to authorize use of mustard gas against rebellious Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq?

If your answer was Saddam Hussien, or Saddam Hussein's cousin, the notorious "Chemical Ali" -- aka Ali Hassan al-Majid -- you're wrong.

The correct answer: Sainted Winston Churchill. As colonial secretary and secretary for war and air, he authorized the RAF in the 1920s to routinely use mustard gas against rebellious Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq and against Pashtun tribes on British India's northwest frontier.

[For that matter] What difference does it make if you're killed by poison gas, artillery or 2,000-pound bombs? The U.S. destroying the rebellious Iraqi city of Fallujah, and Saddam destroying rebellious Halabja?

This article by Eric Margolis, writing in the Toronto Sun goes on:

Who supplied "Chemical Ali" with his mustard and nerve gas? Why, the West, of course. In late 1990, I discovered four British technicians in Baghdad who told me they had been "seconded" to Iraq by Britain's ministry of defense and MI6 intelligence to make chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax, Q-fever and plague, at a secret laboratory at Salman Pak.

I'd argue senior officials of those nations that abetted Saddam's aggression against Iran and supplied him with chemicals and gas should also stand trial with Ali and Saddam. Finally, let's not forget that when Saddam's regime committed many of its worst atrocities against rebellious Kurds and Shiites, it was still a close ally of Washington and London. The West paid for and supplied Saddam's bullets, tanks, gas and germs. He was our regional SOB. Our hands are very far from clean.


The botched US raid that led to the Iranian hostage crisis

A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines.

Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.

In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment. The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil - and the angry Iranian response to it - should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf.

[Excerpt of an article by Patrick Cockburn, The Independent]


Starbucks supports clean water initiative

Some 45,000 Kenyans will be provided with clean water and sanitation, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Starbucks Foundation to the International Medical Corps.

The Corps will put the money toward a two-year water and sanitation program in the Samburu District of central Kenya, a remote region of the country located 200 miles from the capital, Nairobi.

The effort is expected to increase access to clean water, establish infrastructure to maintain wells and provide residents with hygiene awareness.

Residents of the district frequently must travel several miles to find water, and are often at the mercy of unpredictable rainy seasons, according to a press release.

The money was made available through Starbucks' Ethos Water Fund, which receives proceeds from the sale of Ethos brand water at Starbucks coffee shops.

[Philanthropy Journal]


Bill and Melinda Gates visit Vietnam to push health

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, are visiting Vietnam to help promote better children's health, government officials and state media reported Monday.

The world's richest couple agreed in principle to support Vietnam with research on vaccine development for children, said Nguyen Thi Hong Hanh, vice director of Vietnam's National Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology.

The Gates' visited two clinics on the outskirts of Hanoi on Monday, chatted with new mothers and watched babies being immunized, said Duong Thi Khien, director of the Dong Anh district health center.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, created in 2000, concentrates on promoting global health, ending poverty and hunger, and enhancing education.

[Excerpt from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer]


Free Trade Enslaving Poor Countries

The new free trade agreements being signed up between rich and poor countries are proving far more damaging to the poor than anything envisaged within WTO talks, Oxfam said in a report.

Regional and bilateral trade deals now govern more than 30 percent of world trade, and 25 developing countries have now signed free trade agreements with developed countries. "In an increasingly globalised world, these agreements seek to benefit rich-country exporters and firms at the expense of poor farmers and workers, with grave implications for the environment and development," it says.

The United States and the EU are pushing through rules on intellectual property that reduce poor people's access to life-saving medicines, increase the prices of seeds and other farming inputs beyond the reach of small farmers, and make it harder for developing-country firms to access new technology, the report says.

Oxfam has demanded the following:
- Recognise the special and differential treatment that developing countries require in order to move up the development ladder.
- Enable developing countries to adopt flexible intellectual-property legislation to ensure the primacy of public health and agricultural livelihoods and protect traditional knowledge and biodiversity.
- Exclude essential public services such as education, health, water and sanitation from liberalisation commitments.
- Recognise the right of governments to regulate the entry of foreign investors to promote development and the creation of decent employment, and include commitments to enforce core labour standards for all workers.
- Ensure mechanisms for extensive participation of all stakeholders in the negotiating process, with full disclosure of information to the public, including the findings of independent impact assessments.

[Excerpt of an article by Sanjay Suri, Inter Press Service]