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January 15, 2010; various | It makes little sense to cite a single article among the thousands that have been written about Haiti over the last few days. Haiti has been devastated by earthquake and although President Obama pledged $100 million Thursday to support what he called one of the largest relief efforts in history, it is estimated that the loss of life will be in the tens of thousands with millions left homeless. While aid is being delayed by factors that are by now achingly predictable, the world has mobilized to help this small but historically significant country. Everything is in play: celebrity charity, social media and text giving, volunteer recovery teams and government envoys—but recovery has moved too slowly to save many buried in the rubble. Our hearts are with the strong families of that country as they are faced with profoundly inconceivable losses.—Ruth McCambridge
Legal Services and the Company Store
January 14, 2010; Los Angeles Times | Monday is Martin Luther King Day, a moment when we should stop to consider the sources and forms of disenfranchisement and our sector’s role in addressing human rights issues wherever they occur. So we acknowledge the diligent work of at least two legal services agencies promoting the working rights of immigrant sheepherders working in states like Wyoming, Colorado Utah and California. Rep. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat from Denver, told the Times “these sheepherders often don’t speak English, don’t know where they are, and depend entirely on their employers for food, water and contact with the outside world…It struck me as a situation rife with the possibility of abuse, and I was afraid that we were looking at a situation of indentured servitude, of near slavery, right here in Colorado, and that troubled me a lot,” Kagan said. Colorado Legal Services and Central California Legal Services have worked hard to figure out and start to educate legislators about the extent of the problem, which is often situated in far-flung and now frigid landscapes. According to the Times, Colorado Legal Service workers “often spent hours following footprints in the snow” to get the details of the working and living conditions of the shepherds. The article reports, “Seventy percent of workers interviewed said they didn’t have a toilet and 54 percent said they had no electricity. Forty-two percent said their employers kept their passports and other documents and that they feared deportation if they complained about conditions.” Legal assistance offices across the country repeatedly exemplify the critical importance of this type of pro-active legal strategy on behalf of classes of marginalized people including immigrants. In Hawaii, this connection was recently acknowledged when, citing the recession as one motivator, the Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center announced it would become a division of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. “The Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center, previously known as Na Loio, was founded in 1983 and focuses heavily on civil rights and family law issues including international human trafficking, family reunification, citizenship, domestic violence and sexual assault, asylum, and child protection.” Our congratulations on your nuptials.—Ruth McCambridge
UK Charitable Giving £1bn Last Year
January 7, 2010; Third Sector Online | Charities in the UK report an increase in charitable giving in 2008-2009 compared to the year before. How is it that British charities have done better in this worldwide recession? According to a report in Third Sector Online, British charities topped the preceding year’s mark by £49 million. That’s the charitable deduction total, which observers suggest is attributable not necessarily to increased donor generosity, but better record-keeping by donors and charitable recipients. However, charities do not appear to be taking full advantage of the “Gift Aid” available to them and donors are not taking their maximum possible charitable deductions.—Rick Cohen
Who is Obama GSA Nominee Martha Johnson?
January 9, 2010; AllGov.com | President Obama’s nominee to head the General Services Administration, Martha Johnson, has been waiting for what seems like an eternity for the Senate’s final approval, blocked as it is by a hold on her nomination placed in June by Missouri Republican Senator Kit Bond. Given that President Bush’s GSA administrator, Lurita Doan, was a Hatch Act and conflict of interest nightmare, forcing the Bush Administration itself to force her out of office, there seems to be no legitimate much less comparable reason for Senator Bond to scuttle Johnson’s nomination. She may never make it to the GSA slot, but we think it’s worth taking note of some nonprofit-interesting items from her resume. Two of her past positions were with nonprofit executive recruitment firms that many of us know and respect, Isaacson Miller from 1985 to 1987 and the Boulware Group from 1988 to 1990. In addition, prior to becoming a mainstay in some Beltway consulting firms that specialized in getting big federal contracts, Johnson also worked for the Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, which by its Web site seems to specialize in issues of diversity in the workplace. With nonprofit and workplace diversity credentials like these, Johnson seems like a person the nonprofit sector would want to see leading the GSA. Maybe Senator Bond, usually a reasonably clear-minded senator on the Republican side of the aisle, will come to realize that the comparison of Johnson and Doan is no comparison at all, and Johnson should be immediately confirmed and put to work.—Rick Cohen