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Posts Tagged ‘The New York Times’

As Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan celebrates his re-election, the rest of the region and the world are waiting to see how his victory will effect his country. This Monday, April 25, the World Affairs Council will host Ambassador John Campbell, author of Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, for an exploration of Nigeria’s post-colonial history and an explanation of the events and conditions that have carried this complex, dynamic and troubled giant to the edge. Can Nigerians push back against corruption and use the nation’s oil wealth to stoke economic investment and growth, or will Nigeria continue to be a place of a wealthy minority and impoverished majority?

Register for the program here and read more about Jonathan’s win in today’s New York Times.

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On April 20, we are pleased to host Stanford political scientist Francis Fukuyama for a discussion of the evolution of government. In his new book, The Origins of Political Order, he traces political history back to the beginning of man. He will join us to discuss why some societies have created stable liberal democracies, while others have failed to form legitimate and accountable institutions. Register for the program “From Tribes to Citizens: The Evolution of Government,” here.

For more about Fukuyama and his analysis of the history of human social structures, check out this recent article from The New York Times.

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As unrest continues to spread throughout the Middle East, American officials must re-evaluate relations with longtime allies in the region. Perhaps the most important of these, Saudi Arabia, has taken military action in neighboring Bahrain this week, leading to tensions in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. To learn more about this perilous situation, read this article by WorldAffairs 2011 keynote speaker David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.

Sanger will give an address titled, “Obama’s Dilemma: When Big Uprisings Hit Big Allies (and a few Adversaries)” at the conference this Saturday at 1:15 PM PST, which will be webcasted live. The conference webcast is free to watch. Find out more about the conference and the webcast here.

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Over the past few days, the New York Times has offered a telling glimpse into the varied nature of the nonprofit sector and the ways in which it touches our lives—from day-to-day services to high policy. The Times coverage also offers insight into our shared instinct to preserve a sector that has the agility to help address market or policy failures.

Saturday’s paper reminded us that America’s increasing numbers of unemployed rely upon nonprofit food banks and other charitable services when their government benefits are exhausted. Another article reports on one of the most significant developments in nuclear non-proliferation policy—the establishment of a global nuclear fuel bank—enabled by a $50-million gift from philanthropist Warren Buffet to the UN’s resource-strapped and politically hampered International Atomic Energy Agency. The bank would provide low-enriched uranium to states seeking nuclear power, in exchange for their returning the spent fuel and foregoing the indigenous capacity to produce their own fuel, including that which is weapons grade. Thus, the nuclear fuel bank would control the cycle of nuclear production and its associated dangers.

It is against this backdrop that a debate erupted within the nonprofit sector over proposals to alter the tax treatment of the donations on which it relies. The Times covered that as well, treating it as more than an industry’s special pleading. The debate’s starting point is that deficit reduction will require the combination of reduced spending and increased revenues. The question is whether tax breaks for charitable gifts are off limits or on.

A range of organizations from think tanks, advocacy and service groups to churches, temples, universities and hospitals have long benefited from the tax write-off their benefactors enjoy. And, in the past decade there has been an explosion in the creation of new foundations, tax exempt endowments established to advance social causes. The introduction of these new philanthropic players with bold ambitions has created benefits not only for our society but also for others across the globe.

Our tax code reflects the importance we place on the freedom that these philanthropies and other nonprofits enjoy. Reducing charitable deductions could adversely impact a nonprofit’s ability to raise or grant the funds needed to fulfill its mission. The change would occur on the heels of a recession that has already reduced foundation endowments and individual givers’ accounts, forcing their grantees to make do with less. Moreover, as national, state and local coffers have shrunk, nonprofits have stretched to make up for the resulting reductions in government services, providing a safety net for America’s most vulnerable families.

But the impact on nonprofits of a changed tax treatment is likely to be as varied as the non-profits themselves—not to mention the philanthropists that support them. Donors are motivated by a range of factors. Tax relief is among them, but how much is not known. In order to judge whether it is right or wise to ask this sector to sacrifice further, policymakers would need to know the risks and benefits to society as a whole.

While that analysis is undertaken, it would be useful to come to a shared view of the reasons for the favorable tax treatment in the first place. Americans value the sector because it is unconstrained by the need to win elections or generate profits and can therefore take actions and generate ideas that may be unwelcome, unpopular and unprofitable today but produce true societal benefit tomorrow. In the process, they can help identify and tackle truly hard problems.

Among the hard problems the sector can help us address is the need to get our country on a sustainable course.

The sector has already contributed by sounding the alarm and offering specific options for financing the obligations we undertake as a country over time. The continued search for solutions will not only test our willingness as a citizenry to share in the sacrifice, but also our ability to think strategically, ask and answer knotty questions, explore novel solutions—and to imagine. These are the strengths of the nonprofit sector.

While the sector can and will continue to contribute in these ways, informing a larger process, it may also choose to shoulder a greater sacrifice. Whatever choices the sector and we make, let’s never sacrifice the sector’s independence from political and market constraints.

We must and they should preserve the sector’s freedom to help us solve society’s next hard problem.

—Jane Wales

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Today’s episode of NPR’s Fresh Air featured an in-depth interview with CJ Chivers, who will speak at the Council next Tuesday, October 19. A war correspondent for The New York Times, Chivers is the author of The Gun, which chronicles the history of the AK-47, from its early use by Soviet conscripted forces to its spread across the world as the weapon of choice of small-arms dealers. Register for the program here. Listen to the entire Fresh Air interview here.

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This Tuesday the Council will host Larry Rohter, longtime Rio di Janeiro bureau chief for The New York Times and Newsweek. He will provide insight into Brazil’s transformation into the world’s eighth biggest economy, discuss this month’s presidential elections and explore the future of the country. Find out more about the program and register here.

After last weekend’s presidential election failed to produce a clear winner, Brazilians will have to wait until October 31st to vote in a run-off election between ruling-party candidate Dilma Rousseff and opposition-party candidate Jose Serra. To learn more about the candidates and the election, read this article from The Economist.

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Just days after announcing a series of substantial budget cuts, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be speaking at an event co-sponsored by the World Affairs Council and Marines’ Memorial Association. The program will take place Thursday evening at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel. For more information, click here.

In a press conference yesterday, Secretary Gates said that he has ordered the closing of the Joint Forces Command; a 10 percent reduction in spending on defense department contractors; and a freeze on the number of employees at his office, defense agencies and combatant commands for three years. As an additional cost-reduction measure, he also proposed cutting 50 general and admiral posts and 150 senior civilian positions during the next two years. Read more about Secretary Gates’s budget cuts in this article from The New York Times.

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