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Obama Administration Denies Appeal for Information on Contract with Smartronix
Oct 7, 2009; ProPublica | Anyone familiar with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents knows the power of redaction, those blotted out details that the government doesn’t want you to see, to raise questions and make an issue look even more insidious. The Obama Administration has repeatedly made bold claims about its commitment to transparency, but in disclosing details about the redesign of the stimulus reporting website, the administration has used a lot of black ink—enough to cover 50% of its contract with Smartronix. The company’s $18m bid is one in a 10-year history of “less-than-competitive” government gigs, totaling $260m, yet the reason given for the denial is protection of “proprietary or trade secret information.” Worse still, the site doesn’t actually live up to the Federal government’s accessibility standards. Despite the deserved heralding of opening the data to other developers, the handling of stimulus funds for 2.0 is disconcerting.—James David Morgan

Signs of Upturn Fail to Brighten Jobs Outlook
Oct 3, 2009; Wall Street Journal | It is hard to imagine that the jobless recovery isn’t going to be more jobless than the pundits imagine—and therefore potentially damaging to nonprofit fundraising efforts that target the charitable giving of working people and middle class people. The latest numbers look worse and worse, with the official unemployment rate jumping to 9.8 percent in September. The monthly job loss numbers continued to decrease, but that may be a bottoming out of the job market, not that the job picture is getting better. According to the Wall Street Journal, the state and local governments cut about 50,000 jobs. That’s not only the capacity of state governments to get contracts and resources into the hands of nonprofits, but a reduction in incomes and benefits (governments usually provide much better health benefits than other sectors) among people who are typically very generous with public charities, including through workplace giving in state employee campaigns. Some 125,000 people have lost their jobs in state and local education positions this past year, at a time when the big national push of the Obama Administration is on education. In other sectors, construction lost 64,000 jobs (despite the supposed uptick in the housing market) and manufacturing lost 51,000 jobs in September. According to estimates from the International Monetary Fund, U.S. unemployment will AVERAGE 10.1 percent in 2010 and will not slide back to pre-recession unemployment rates of 5 percent until 2014.  In this recovery, businesses are reviving without rehiring workers. Anecdotes abound, but the statistics are telling.  Again, according to the WSJ: “The number of work-week hours [in September] fell by 0.1 to 33.0. Hourly wages of private-sector nonsupervisory workers rose only one cent an hour to $18.67, but a shrinking average work week reduced average weekly wages [Note: not inflation-adjusted] by $1.54 to $616.11.”  It’s not a good picture for the economy and not a good picture for nonprofit charitable fundraising this holiday season or next year.—Rick Cohen

Franklin Graham moves to address concerns about his pay
Oct 7, 2009; News Observer | Billy Graham is in trouble today, having had to curb his contributions to his retirement plan after inquiries were brought into his twice-over compensation as president of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. We’re all familiar with working (at least) two jobs simultaneously in this sector, but could Graham really be heading two huge organizations simultaneously—and well enough to warrant his exaggerated paycheck?—James David Morgan

World’s biggest coffee morning for charity
Oct 8, 2009; Ayrshire Post | Across the pond, a cancer support charity received a (caffeinated) boost today when 2,000 people around Ayrshire—a county in southwest Scotland best know for its dairy cattle—gathered at some 160 coffee mornings. The record-breaking klatch dispels the notion that the British only drink tea.—Timothy Lyster


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