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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

The past few days have seen lively debate over whether Obama’s new tax plan – which includes limits for charitable giving deductions – will reduce the amount of money given each year toward philanthropic ends.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy has posted several articles with competing views – one from the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy that estimates the new tax plan could cause “giving by America’s wealthy to drop by several billion dollars a year,” and another by Suzanne Perry that cites the White House argument that the new policy won’t affect dollar amounts because people give out of benevolence, not for financial returns.

Don’t miss the comments section – the debate continues there!

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The Chronicle of Philanthropy today published a short piece on plans for a new White House Office of Social Innovation.  Jane Wales, our CEO & President, has been asked to design a series of meetings during the next two years to develop advice on how the office should operate.  She will host these through her work with the Aspen Institute, where she is Vice President and Director of the Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation.  The article quotes Jane saying that the meetings will focus on a “social innovation fund, which will provide aid to nonprofit groups, and a social enterprise fund, which will assist companies that seek to benefit society as well as make a profit.”

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An article this week in The Christian Science Monitor highlights the deepening shortfall in funding for international efforts to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.  Global health leaders are calling for the Obama Administration to pledge American money to these ends, to set an example for the rest of the world.

The article argues, “The international economic turmoil must not be allowed to sidetrack attention from global health initiatives, especially with many countries in the midst of multiyear programs that are delivering impressive results, say health experts. With a hint of exasperation, some experts note that the world’s wealthy are managing to come up with huge sums of money for business bailouts and national stimulus plans.”

Our upcoming Global Philanthropy Forum conference in April will look at exactly this issue – how government can and should partner with the private and social sectors to address challenges in health, and in four other areas – poverty, education, climate change, and conflict.  See a list of confirmed speakers so far, here.

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John Bruton, former Irish Prime Minister and current EU Ambassador to the United States, urged Congress on Monday to refrain from any “Buy American” provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act now headed to the Senate. Bruton expressed the EU’s concerns over such action, saying that if approved, the measure would set a “dangerous precedent” for protectionist policies. A BBC article today quotes Ambassador Bruton as saying that “Nobody will take this lying down.” And that it would take the world on the same exact path that we took in the 1930s – when, Burton believes, retaliatory protectionism caused the Great Depression to last years longer than it might have otherwise.

Ambassador Bruton shared these same thoughts when he joined us at the Council on Friday to talk about what the new administration in Washington might mean for transatlantic relations. He spoke about ways in which governments on both sides of the Atlantic can turn a series of separate problems into a chain of interlinked opportunities – particularly regarding the financial crisis of late. Bruton warned that this “Buy American” clause would sap global confidence and trigger more protectionist policies at the very time that we should be opening up and working together to turn this crisis into an opportunity for global cooperation.

FT also has an interesting blog on the “Buy American” debate here.

Update: CBS News posted a clip of our Council program with Bruton – watch here.

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A post on The Daily Beast today highlights the decision made by Afghan officials to postpone elections for another four months to allow thousands of incoming US troops to improve security beforehand. The elections are now scheduled for August 20, 2009 – but could be pushed back even further, seeing as “the electoral commission is still far short of the $223 million required to hold the presidential and provincial council votes,” said Azizullah Lodin, the head of the Independent Election Commission cited by an article in the Associated Press.

Dexter Filkins, a Foreign Correspondent for the NY Times, has been covering the war in Afghanistan since the early 1990s, and published a new article just last week on the situation there. He spoke at the Council this fall on his widely acclaimed book, The Forever War, which tries to tell the stories of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the perspective of the people on the ground, living the conflict day-to-day. Watch his talk, accompanied with stunning photographs, in the video below.

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more about “Elections Postponed in Afghanistan“, posted with vodpod

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Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in the landmark case, Roe vs Wade.  Thousands of protesters marched in Washington DC today, hoping to bring attention to the issue and to influence President Obama’s firm pro-choice stance, according to a Washington Post article this afternoon.  The organizers of the “March for Life” invited President Obama to speak at the event, but he instead issued a statement reaffirming his support for a woman’s right to choose. The Roe decision, he said, “not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”  He urged people on both sides of the issue to try to find common ground on preventive issues, such as contraception, family planning, and support programs, in the hope of making abortion one day unnecessary.

The protests also come in the wake of news that President Obama may soon overturn the global gag rule – a decision that would dramatically impact the work of humanitarian and development organizations around the world.

Watch Jan Egeland, former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs & Emergency Relief Coordinator, discuss the challenges and successes of these organizations, and the impact of policies like the global gag rule on their work, at a talk he gave at the Council last year.

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In his inaugural speech yesterday, President Obama renewed the atmosphere of service surrounding this election. He drew on a familiar theme from his campaign, that we each have a role to play in shaping the changes we wish to see in the world: “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

In line with this call to action, singer, songwriter, and HIV/AIDS activist Annie Lennox joined us at GPF. In the video below, she speaks of finding a way to direct her own unique talents toward a shared goal. Standing in a plain t-shirt with the bold words “HIV POSITIVE”, she describes her realization that the collective experience of music – broadcast across nations – can be incredibly powerful, and of her decision to use her voice to “raise focus to issues in the most beautiful – way, not intellectually, but emotionally.” Her issue is HIV/AIDS awareness, and she spoke to it with sincerity, grace, and inspiration. She then gifted us with a soulful song and piano performance, included below.

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On this historic day, many of us across the country and around the world are full of reflection and hope. Such was the mood here among staff, as we followed the proceedings live from our auditorium.

Much of President Obama’s long-anticipated inauguration speech rang true with the mission and spirit of our organization, particularly in the below excerpt:

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

Our Council and GPF communities are enriched by this same diversity.  And we are dedicated to celebrating these differences through education, enabling us to realize our shared humanity.

Congratulations to our new President and Vice President, and to their families.  We look forward to a new era under their leadership.

Watch Vice President Joe Biden’s speech here at the Council in May 2007.

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The Huffington Post on Tuesday published a letter written by V-Day Founder Eve Ensler, Global Fund for Women President Kavita Ramdas, and Women for Women International Founder Zainab Salbi, among others. They’ve written an open letter to President-Elect Obama calling on him to lead by example in promoting equal women’s involvement in government, and everywhere else. They argue that “the major economic, security, governance and environmental challenges of our times cannot be solved without the equal participation of women at all levels of society.” And that we must stop thinking about these topics as “women’s” issues, for they affect all of us – from the individual, to the nation.

Eve Ensler will join us for a GPF/Council event next month with Dr. Mukwege to discuss their work to end violence against women in the DRC, and around the world.

And Zainab Salbi joined us in April for our GPF conference – she speaks here about the role of women in conflict, of the need for a ‘backline’ discussion of war – the side of war that only women seem to see. “It has everything to do with how you send your kids to school, how you provide food for your family, how you fall in love, and how you manage fear.” Despite the horrific experience of women in conflict, Zainab and other panelists agreed that their sense of hope comes from the survivors themselves – if they can stand up on their own two feet after atrocity, then who are we not to hope?

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President-Elect Obama has called for a National Day of Service this Monday, January 19, because “each of us, as Americans, has a responsibility to do what we can for our communities and fellow citizens.  We are one nation,”he is quoted as saying on the website, USAService.org.

There’s a great series of posts right now on the USAService Blog.  Between now and Monday, they’re featuring several guest bloggers each day discussing the impact of service here, and abroad.

Find a list of local service options here.

Happy reading!

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On Monday, at Obama’s urging, President Bush called for Congress to release the second half of the $700 billion financial system bailout.  A NY Times article this morning quotes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke saying that while the bailout and Obama’s stimulus plan will certainly help, much more is needed.  “Fiscal actions are unlikely to promote a lasting recovery unless they are accompanied by strong measures to further stabilize and strengthen the financial system,” he said at the London School of Economics yesterday.  Beyond lowering the benchmark interest rate, he argues that the Federal Reserve must use many of the other tools at its disposal, including lowering mortgage rates, providing asset guarantees, and more capital injections.

In a talk here at the Council on Wednesday, Adam Posen, Deputy Director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, addressed this same issue.  He spoke with great insight on Obama’s stimulus plan, boiling down complicated details into a very digestible format.  He emphasizes the need for any economic recovery plan to focus heavily on public works and funding at the state and city level, not on big businesses that will only use it to pay down their debts.

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This morning at 10am San Francisco time, Michael Krasny Dave Iverson interviewed Jane Wales on KQED’s FORUM along with NY Times reporter Tim Weiner about their thoughts on Obama’s pick of Leon Panetta for Director of the CIA, and the future of the organization more generally.  The audio copy of the broadcast should be posted here soon.

Obama’s pick is a controversial one, and a Washington Post article today explains some of the disagreement. And the NY Times Caucus blog from last night elaborates.

Jane drew on her experience as former Senior Director of the National Security Council, and Tim from the research he gathered in writing his book, “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.”  Tim spoke here at the World Affairs Council in September of 2007 on this same  subject.

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