Navy Vets Scammer Bobby Thompson FINALLY arrested

A man featured on “America’s Most Wanted” suspected of stealing millions of dollars meant for U.S. Navy veterans has been arrested in Portland.

Thompson was arrested on Monday evening and booked into the Multnomah Co. Jail, where he is being held without the possibility of bail. He is in federal custody of the U.S. Marshals Service awaiting an identity hearing, since his real identity is still unknown.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Marshal Peter J. Elliott announced at a press conference in Cleveland on Tuesday that a tip led investigators to Thompson’s Portland home, where he has been under surveillance for the past week.

“We are relieved Bobby Thompson is now in federal custody after a nationwide manhunt and years of work within the Attorney General’s Office to track him down,” said Attorney General DeWine.

Investigators believe Thompson stole as much as $2 million from Ohio residents — and millions more from donors in 40 other states — through a charity that he founded, the United States Navy Veterans Association. He’s suspected of collecting the money for about five years beginning in 2005.

Agents with the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) are headed to Portland to continue their investigation. “We commend the teamwork with our federal partners in this case,” DeWine said. “This case sends a strong message that we will not tolerate scam artists in Ohio.”

U.S. Marshals said today they have found $1 million in cash in a storage locker rented by the recently captured fugitive known as Bobby Thompson.

The man accused of setting up a fake Navy Veterans charity and siphoning away millions of dollars was captured earlier this week by U.S. Marshals in Portland, Oregon, after nearly two years on the run.

Now, the Marshals said they have locked a stash of cash in a storage facility rented under the name Alan Lacey.

The name was on a fake Canadian identity card that the fugitive had on him at the time of his capture, according to Pete Elliott, the U.S. Marshal in northern Ohio who headed the fugitive task force that spent two years on the case.

The alleged con artist, who mostly went by the name Bobby Thompson, has continued to refuse to reveal his identity after Marshals took him into custody last night, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

Investigators are still unsure of the true identity of “Thompson” and will be working on that as well as identifying his alleged ongoing criminal activity. Thompson was transported to the Multnomah County Jail where he will await extradition to Northern Ohio.

As detailed in an ABC News investigation, the mustachioed man known as Thompson was charged in Ohio in 2010 on counts of identity theft, fraud, and money laundering in connection with a bogus charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association that raised more than $100 million from unsuspecting donors around the country.

See also:
FUGITIVE, SHAM VETERANS’ CHARITY CREATOR BOBBY THOMPSON, MAY BE HIDING OUT IN NEW MEXICO

VETERANS CHARITY FRAUD: STOLEN IDENTITIES, MISSING MILLIONS – ELABORATE SCAMS

Kars4Kids loses bundle in investment krackup

Charity purportedly put money into risky real estate ventures and now Kars 4 Kids investigated by several attorney generals.

We’ve all heard the spots on the radio for Kars4Kids, along with the accompanying jingle that sounds so cute and catchy the first time you hear it but upon the 432nd listen feels more like a) a violation of the Geneva Convention, and/or b) oral surgery conducted with flatware.

Well, it appears that all is not going well for Kars4Kids Car Donation. According to a report by NBC New York, the charity that donates automobiles to children lost a fortune investing in high-risk vehicles. The station reported that Kars4Kids lost more than $5 million on property investments in 2010. During that same time, the nonprofit spent about $6 million on programs for children.

NBC claims that the charity lost $2.5 million on a proposed outlet mall on Staten Island. In addition, Kars4Kids reportedly took a $2.3 million haircut on two failed condominium towers in New Jersey. Further, the charity invested $500,000 on a project in the Sanhedria neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel. The property, NBC said, ultimately was foreclosed upon.

In total, Kars4Kids lost more than 15 percent of its net assets on real estate ventures, the channel reported.

The station did interview Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for Kars4Kids. He said the real estate investments were made to build an endowment for the nonprofit so that the charity could expand its services to children in the future.

“We believe real estate will return to value,” he told NBC News.

There’s more to the story, as well. It turns out one of the two groups behind Kars4Kids is actually a charitable mission that seeks to introduce nonobservant Jewish children to Orthodox Judaism — a minor detail not mentioned in the radio song.

Admittedly, it’s probably tough to work that into a jingle.

To see a video and read the full article — which happens to be a great piece of investigative reporting — follow this link:
Children’s Charity Kars 4 Kids Loses Millions on Real Estate

http://businessjournalism.org/2012/01/25/check-with-state-attorneys-general-to-get-more-info-on-charities/

http://www.forward.com/articles/149879/?p=all

See also: http://www.onlinecardonation.org/charitynews/archives/31

PETA – Animal charity sues SeaWorld on behalf of five ‘slave’ whales

A federal judge for the first time in U.S. history has heard arguments in a case that could determine whether animals enjoy the same constitutional protection against slavery as human beings.

PETA wants SeaWorld orcas freed on antislavery grounds!!!

Attorneys for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are set Monday to ask a federal judge in San Diego to free the five orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego and Orlando.

The attorneys are arguing that the orcas — Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Ulises and Corky — should be covered by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that bans slavery and involuntary servitude.
[For the record, Three of the orcas reside in San Diego; two are in SeaWorld’s Orlando park.]

“The orcas species does not deny them the right to be free,” according to the PETA attorneys.
SeaWorld attorneys are asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit as a publicity stunt for the animal-rights group.

Miller listened to both sides for an hour before announcing that he would take the case under advisement and issue his ruling at a later date. The judge raised doubts a court can allow animals to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit, and he questioned how far the implications of a favorable ruling could reach, pointing out the military’s use of dolphins and scientists’ experiments on whales in the wild.

Kerr acknowledged PETA faces an uphill battle but he said he was hopeful after Monday’s hearing.

“This is an historic day,” Kerr said. “For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human. By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here.”

The issue is not about whether the animals have been subjected to abuse, the defense said. If the court were to grant orcas constitutional rights, Shaw warned the ruling would have profound implications that could impact everything from the way the U.S. government uses dogs to sniff out bombs and drugs to how zoos and aquariums operate.
“We’re talking about hell unleashed,” he said.

PETA said a ruling in its favour would only help to protect the orcas in the entertainment industry and other cases involving animals would have to be decided on their own merits.

Kerr said Sea World employees are in violation of the 13th amendment because their conduct is enslaving an intelligent, highly social species that suffers from its confinements in ways similar to what humans would experience.
Brushing animals off as property is the same argument that was used against African-Americans and women before their constitutional rights were protected, PETA says.

Shaw pointed out that argument does not translate because both women and African-Americans are people for which the Constitution was written to protect.

Miller did not specify when he would issue his ruling.

Susan G. Komen Charity Does an About-Face

Breast Cancer Group Backs Off Move to Withhold Funds for Planned Parenthood

The breast-cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure, faced with harsh criticism from some supporters, has backtracked on a policy that would have cut off future funding to most Planned Parenthood affiliates. But the effects of the public spat, which has divided women’s-health supporters, will continue to be felt for a long time.

[see also: Komen CEO Nancy Brinker really Sad that everyone is Mad at her]

The two iconic organizations have been on the opposite ends of a social-media and political firestorm that erupted after Komen’s original decision became public Tuesday. Planned Parenthood blamed the move on pressure from antiabortion groups that have long targeted it as a prominent provider of the procedure. Swiftly, opponents in the abortion debate seized on the split—slamming Komen’s decision and funneling donations to Planned Parenthood, or lauding the move and pledging new support to the breast-cancer charity.

Komen struggled to quell a rebellion among some of its own affiliates—some of which had applied for an exemption to the policy that cut off funding—as well as boycotts targeting the corporate donors who have helped make its pink ribbon and road races ubiquitous.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America said it has almost $3 million in new donations, far more than the amount that Komen had been giving to its affiliates, which amounted to about $680,000 last year, mostly for breast exams and education programs. Planned Parenthood, with 79 local affiliates, operates clinics that offer reproductive and some other health services.

Komen has contended that the public debate was distorting its policy, which banned funding for organizations that were under government investigation. That category included Planned Parenthood, because of a probe by a Republican congressman involving management of federal funds.

On Friday, Komen said that in the future, organizations would be disqualified only if they are the subjects of “criminal and conclusive” investigations, not “political” ones.

The charity denied that it had made its original policy change for political reasons or to target Planned Parenthood. It said the reversal ensured that Planned Parenthood would be eligible to apply for future funding.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president, Cecile Richards, said she would “take them at their word.” The new donations generated by the first Komen decision—which included a $250,000 matching grant from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg—will enable Planned Parenthood to “expand our breast-care work beyond our wildest dreams,” she said. The group has had more than 10,000 people contribute in recent days, she said. A spokeswoman said it has also gained almost 20,000 new Facebook supporters.

The reversal generated praise from Planned Parenthood supporters, but also doubts.

“I’m concerned that there’s no guarantee that they will continue funding in the future.…Until I see them actually sending money to Planned Parenthood, I’m going to be skeptical,” said Susan Messina, a professional fund-raiser and childbirth educator in Washington, D.C., who said she had previously sponsored participants in Komen’s Race for the Cure. “I think the true colors of the organization have been revealed in some disturbing ways.”

Planned Parenthood critics, many of whom had pledged new support for Komen in the wake of the promised cuts, expressed disappointment.

The president of Americans United for Life, a group opposed to abortion rights that helped trigger the congressional investigation, said that she was taking a “wait and see” attitude on Komen’s new stance.

“I’d like to have a little more clarification about what their move forward is,” said Charmaine Yoest. “I understand them wanting to get out from the pressure of this Mafia-style shakedown.”

Ms. Yoest said that she had signed up to run in the Komen race this year for the first time in a decade after learning of Komen’s initial decision. She said that she had already received calls from women who had signed up to run with her who now said that they wanted to get a refund.

The often-strident rhetoric on both sides of the issue, which spread rapidly through social-media channels, raised the question of whether Komen, a private charity, was caving in to political pressure in both its initial decision and when it backed off. The organization is made up of a Dallas-based headquarters and 122 local affiliates throughout the U.S., each with an independent leadership.

Komen affiliates in Connecticut and California had publicly aired their concerns about the initial decision. The Aspen, Colo., Komen affiliate asked for an exemption from the policy and was denied, and then advertised in local papers that it would defy the rule. “After a 17-year relationship with Planned Parenthood, we intended to continue that relationship,” said Marcia Goshorn, president of the Aspen affiliate. “We felt it was important that our voice is heard.”

Friday, in a call with affiliates, Komen’s national leadership aimed to soothe the unrest, apologizing, promising greater openness and saying it was responding to concerns from major stakeholders, affiliate leaders said. They said the board had “been up all night…contemplating what’s the right thing to do,” said Laura Farmer Sherman, executive director of the San Diego Komen affiliate, who was on the call.

Unlike corporations, which must respond primarily to shareholders, nonprofits face a challenge in honoring the wishes of a board, fulfilling the intent of a donor’s charitable gift and fulfilling the public mission of the organization.

“Once an organization exists in the public trust, they are answerable to many stakeholders,” said Marian Z. Stern, a philanthropy consultant and adjunct professor at New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising.

Ms. Stern said that “donor intent” is among the highest priorities. Organizations are required legally, but also “morally and ethically,” to follow a donor’s wishes, she said. In the case of Komen, Ms. Stern believes that many donors, including small donors, felt that was an “issue of transparency” with the organization. When the organization “changed practice in a way that seemed oblique or inconsistent, donors were angry,” she said.

At the San Diego affiliate, Ms. Sherman said her group has already lost about $50,000 of around $300,000 in corporate pledges for this year from the initial decision, and another $150,000 is still under review, she said. She has gotten 683 emails on the Planned Parenthood issue, only four positive, she said.

A spokeswoman for the national Komen organization said Friday that it had no numbers on the effect of the recent events on donations.

On Thursday, the group said that it had seen a jump. The spokeswoman said it “recognized the importance of removing the perception that politics were involved in the changes we made in our grant making policy” and is “working with our affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward.”

By LOUISE RADNOFSKY, ANNA WILDE MATHEWS and MELANIE GRAYCE WEST

Susan G. Komen charity under microscope for funding, science

Susan G. Komen charity under microscope for funding, science

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity defines its mission as finding a cure for breast cancer. In recent years, however, it has cut by nearly half the proportion of fund-raising dollars it spends on grants to scientists working to understand the causes and develop effective new treatments for the disease.

While the absolute dollar amount of those grants has steadily grown, it has not kept pace with the surge in donations Komen has received, a Reuters analysis of the group’s financial statements shows.

Komen has come under heavy public scrutiny since it moved last week to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, a women’s health network that provides birth control, abortions and other services. Although it reversed that decision on Friday, the outcry has prompted a closer look from activists, media and lawmakers at how the charity powerhouse operates.

Critics within the philanthropic and research communities in particular have raised questions over its scientific approach to some issues and how it spends the money it raises.

[see also: Troubled Cancer Charity Embroiled in Embryonic Stem Cell Debate]

Komen’s financial statements since 2003 reveal how much the group known for its pink ribbon symbol spends on activities from research to education, screenings, treatment and fund-raising.

In 2011, the foundation spent 15 percent, or $63 million, of its donations on research awards that fund studies on everything from hard-core molecular biology to the quality of breast-cancer care for Medicaid patients.

That proportion was down from 17 percent in 2009 and 2010. In 2008, that percentage reached 29 percent of donations. The annual financial statements cover April 1 through March 31.

Komen reports spending a total of $685 million for research in the past 30 years, a considerable sum in private cancer philanthropy, and its money goes to a wide variety of initiatives.

“In 2011, 83 cents of every dollar spent went to mission programs,” spokeswoman Leslie Aun said in an email statement to Reuters. “We’re the only organization doing breast cancer on all these fronts – in research, global work, advocacy and community work.”

The organization’s 2011 financial statement reports that 43 percent of donations were spent on education, 18 percent on fund-raising and administration, 15 percent on research awards and grants, 12 percent on screening and 5 percent on treatment. (Various other items accounted for the rest.)

Aun did not immediately address the declining share of revenue that went to research in the past few years. In that period, Komen saw its annual revenue rise by almost $100 million to $420 million and increased its spending on education.

When informed of the figures, Komen supporter and widely-followed breast cancer blogger Lisa Bonchek Adams expressed surprise. The Connecticut mother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, ran her first “Race for the Cure” in 2008, and raised $15,000 for Komen in 2009.

Although Adams knew that Komen spends a large fraction of its revenue on raising awareness of breast cancer and promoting screening, she said that the much smaller amount that goes to finding a cure “is definitely a concern; 15 percent is shockingly small.”

PLAUDITS FOR LOW OVERHEAD

Still, in categories like administration and overhead Komen wins plaudits from outside experts. Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that scrutinizes such groups’ finances, awards it four out of four stars, and 65.55 out of 70 points for financial performance.

That reflects the relatively small amount Komen reports spending on administration and fundraising (18 percent of donations) and its accountability and transparency. Komen issues audited financial statements, for instance, and has policies on conflicts of interest and whistleblowing.

By comparison, the American Cancer Society (ACS) gets three stars and a score of 53.85. The Wishing Well Foundation, which fulfills requests from terminally ill children, gets zero stars and 4.8.

Komen also shines for what it pays founder and CEO Nancy Brinker: $417,712 in 2011. That is almost $300,000 less than the Breast Cancer Research Foundation reported in salary and benefits for its president last year. Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, received $354,716 in the fiscal year ending in June 2010.

In absolute terms, Komen is a leader in funding breast cancer research among private organizations. The $63 million it granted in 2011 pales beside the estimated $763 million spent by the National Institutes of Health in 2011 and the $150 million budgeted by the Department of Defense in 2012.

But it dwarfs the $17 million awarded by ACS for breast cancer research in 2010. In percentage terms, ACS spent 16 percent of donations on all cancer research, largely because much of its focus is “patient support,” which includes providing transportation and housing for people undergoing treatment for cancer. It reported much higher fund-raising and administration costs than Komen, accounting for 30 percent of donations.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation reported spending 92 percent of what it raised on research; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 56 percent.

The Avon Foundation, which sponsors both walks and research efforts, does not itemize its breast cancer spending in its financial statements.

Planned Parenthood generates the bulk of its $1 billion in annual revenue from health services it provides and government grants. Donations accounted for $224 million in 2010, and the group’s annual report did not identify how those specific funds were earmarked.

FOCUS ON WOMEN

Even $63 million is too little to support most of the worthy grant requests Komen receives: of the initial applications it receives, the group funds between 10 percent and 15 percent.

Of the full proposals – those deemed good enough that scientists were invited to submit an extensive description of their proposed research – it funds less than 20 percent, said a leading cancer researcher with close ties to Komen.

Some experts who applaud Komen for supporting research are critical less of the “how much” than the “what.” They say funding choices may place too great an emphasis on treatment and the most basic of basic research, rather than prevention and a true cure.

“It would be good if they spent more on finding the cause of breast cancer and preventing it,” said breast surgeon and author Susan Love, whose eponymous research foundation focuses on raising “an army of women” to volunteer for breast-cancer studies.

“They fund a lot of research on mice and rats and cell lines,” she said. “But rats and mice don’t get breast cancer; you have to give it to them.”

That also raises doubts for some researchers about how applicable the results of lab rodent studies are to humans. Experts have begun to argue that an emphasis on this type of research partially explains why so little progress has been made in the war on cancer.

Komen, recognizing that concern, now supports studies “that have the potential to impact research and treatment in the next decade,” says the cancer biologist.

The foundation’s science advisors say they have also tried to identify areas that have gotten short shrift from other funders – for instance, the recurrence of a type of breast cancer fueled by the hormone estrogen many years after diagnosis. Many recurrences occur eight to 12 years after the initial diagnosis, when women think they are out of the woods.

THE ‘AWARENESS’ MESSAGE

By far, the largest single category in Komen’s budget is “education.” It spent an average of 37 percent of money raised on education from 2003 to 2011, the Reuters analysis showed, and 43 percent in 2011.

Education encompasses a wide variety of activities at Komen. One community grant was used to identify the seven “best” books on breast cancer and buy copies for local libraries. In general, education means getting out its awareness message, with an emphasis on screening mammography.

Komen’s 2011 financial statement reports $51 million spent on screening services, 12 percent of donor dollars. In explaining its initial decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood’s mammography programs, Komen said it wanted to support groups that provide that screening rather than, as Planned Parenthood does, offer referrals for it.

“Screening is their thing,” said sociologist Gayle Sulik of the University of Albany and author of the 2011 book “Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health.”

“What they’re best at is awareness, which you could also call publicity,” she said. “Getting out the word that breast cancer exists is what they excel at – that and raising money. But if your mantra is ‘end breast cancer,’ screening isn’t going to do it.”

Although screening mammography detects breast cancer earlier than waiting for symptoms to appear, it does not decrease mortality from breast cancer as scientists, advocates, and public health experts had hoped.

After a number of recent studies concluded that screening mammography makes a small difference, if any, on mortality, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening mammography every two years for women 50 to 74, rather than annually, and having a first mammogram at 50 rather than 40.

That undercut Komen’s mantra that early detection through screening mammography can reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. An official statement spear-headed by Komen’s scientific advisory board concurred with the task force recommendations.

“But some people at the affiliates and the national board were uncomfortable with that,” says the cancer biologist close to Komen. “The result was some complex messaging,” with the official Komen statement focusing more on increasing access to mammograms than on the emerging science about their dwindling medical benefits.

Komen’s messages to women sometimes diverge from mainstream science in other ways as well.

The group urged insurers to continue covering the Roche drug Avastin even after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rescinded its approval for breast cancer. The FDA decision was based on two large studies that showed Avastin does not prolong the lives of women taking it for metastatic breast cancer and can in fact cause serious harm. Komen emphasized that some women and their doctors claimed that Avastin was keeping them alive and that they would die without it.

The Komen view on Avastin was not shared by other breast cancer activists. National Breast Cancer Coalition president Fran Visco said that the FDA should never have approved the drug for that purpose in the first place.

Komen’s advocacy of breast self-exams, part of its “awareness” message, also clashes with the position of the NBCC, a group that is widely respected for rejecting what it sees as false promises in detecting or treating cancer.

Because self-exams have not been shown to detect breast cancer earlier or to reduce mortality, the National Cancer Institute no longer distributes how-to guides. The Preventive Services Task Force recommends that doctors not even teach the practice.

Some Komen contributors say they hope the controversy over the organization’s approach will prompt it to pursue its mission even more effectively. “This whole flap might be good for Komen in the long run,” says Adams. “People have been afraid to criticize them, but sometimes being out under the microscope can help.”

(Reuters) – (Sharon Begley and Janet Roberts)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/08/us-usa-healthcare-komen-research-idUSTRE8171KW20120208

Fugitive, sham veterans’ charity creator Bobby Thompson, may be hiding out in New Mexico

Time may be running out for the man known as Bobby Thompson, who has been a fugitive from the law for more than a year.

The one-time Tampa resident, accused of raising nearly $100 million through a sham veterans charity, disappeared in 2010 just before he was indicted in Ohio on charges of fraud and money laundering.

Now it appears Thompson may be hiding in New Mexico, where the U.S. Marshals Service believes he has changed his physical appearance and adopted stolen identities to avoid prosecution.

The Marshals Service announced Tuesday that it is seeking the public’s help to find Thompson, who ran his U.S. Navy Veterans Association out of a run-down duplex in Tampa. In a news release, the Marshals Service released two names adopted by Thompson and a series of pictures, dating from before his disappearance, showing him with various hairstyles and facial hair.

Pete Elliott, U.S. marshal for the northern district of Ohio, declined to say specifically why investigators have focused on New Mexico. His agency’s news release noted that Thompson may have lived in that state and had “specific knowledge” of the Albuquerque area.

Elliott said Thompson’s picture is now on digital billboards in Albuquerque. “We’ve dedicated a full squad to this and I feel very confident we will apprehend him,” Elliott said. “I know he’s been very slippery in the past, but people always leave behind some clues, and it’s our job to tie those clues together.”

Thompson started Navy Veterans in 2002 and built a charity that claimed to have headquarters in Washington and chapters nationwide, raising millions of dollars in donations.

In March 2010, however, a Times investigation revealed that, other than Thompson, none of its dozens of officers or directors existed and its offices were merely mail drops. The stories showed that Navy Veterans also provided few services for veterans while funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative politicians nationwide.

Ohio indicted Thompson and an associate, Blanca Contreras of Tampa, in August 2010. Contreras was sentenced to five years in prison a year later. Thompson has remained at large.

Though Ohio’s criminal investigators have been working on the case for about a year and a half, they did not seek the U.S. Marshals’ help until November. A spokesman for Ohio’s attorney general declined to comment on the reason for the delay.

On Tuesday, authorities said the burly, bearded man known as “The Commander” has used several aliases. Among them: Ronnie Brittain and Elmer Dosier.

Brittain lives in New Mexico. He told the Tampa Bay Times that he was visited by six federal marshals Monday evening and was asked about Thompson. Brittain said he has never heard of or seen him.

Elmer Dosier, who once lived in New Mexico, was a Vietnam War veteran and former police officer who died in 1999. The Marshals Service has interviewed Dosier’s son in Indiana.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-866-492-6833 or text keyword WANTED and the tip to 847411. Callers can remain anonymous and there is a potential cash reward, though Elliott declined to say how much.

Susan G Komen Cancer charity confronts backlash over grant cuts

NEW YORK – The renowned breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure faced an escalating backlash Thursday over its decision to cut breast screening grants to Planned Parenthood. Some of Komen’s local affiliates are openly upset, including all seven in California, and at least one top official has quit, reportedly in protest.

Meanwhile, Komen has been deluged with negative emails and Facebook postings, accusing it of knuckling under to pressure from anti-abortion groups, since the AP reported Tuesday that it was halting grants that Planned Parenthood affiliates used for breast exams and related services. The grants totaled $680,000 last year.

Planned Parenthood has been heartened by an outpouring of support in response to the cutoff. Besides $400,000 in smaller donations from 6,000 people, it is receiving $250,000 from a family foundation in Dallas and a $250,000 pledge announced Thursday by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to match future donations.

In Washington, 26 U.S. senators — all Democrats except for independent Bernie Sanders, of Vermont — signed a letter calling on Komen to reconsider its decision.

“It would be tragic if any woman — let alone thousands of women — lost access to these potentially lifesaving screenings because of a politically motivated attack,” the senators wrote.

Komen’s top leaders, in their first news conference since the controversy erupted, denied Planned Parenthood’s assertion that the decision was driven by pressure from anti-abortion groups.

“We don’t base our funding decisions … on whether one side or the other will be pleased,” said Komen’s founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, depicting the criticism as a mischaracterization of the charity’s goals and mission.

Komen has said the decision stemmed from newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations under investigation — affecting Planned Parenthood because of an inquiry by a Republican congressman acting with encouragement from anti-abortion activists.

Brinker said Thursday that there were additional factors, notably changes in the types of breast-health service providers it wanted to support. However, she said grants would continue this year to three of the 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates — in Denver, California’s Orange County, and Waco, Texas — because they served clientele with few other breast-screening options.

A source with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen’s headquarters in Dallas gave a different account, saying the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood. The criteria’s impact on Planned Parenthood and its status as the focus of government investigations were highlighted in a memo distributed to Komen affiliates in December.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Karen Handel, who was hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood.

Brinker, in an interview with MSNBC, said Handel didn’t have a significant role in the policy change.

The source also said that Mollie Williams, who had been Komen’s director of community health programs, had resigned in protest over the grant cutoff.

Williams, in an email, said she could not comment on her departure for reasons of professional confidentiality, but she was clear about her views.

“I have dedicated my career to fighting for the rights of the marginalized and underserved,” she wrote. “And I believe it would be a mistake for any organization to bow to political pressure and compromise its mission.”

Williams said she was saddened by the rift because she admired both Komen and Planned Parenthood.

“I am hopeful their passionate and courageous leaders, Nancy Brinker and Cecile Richards, can swiftly resolve this conflict in a manner that benefits the women they both serve.”

Among Komen’s affiliates, there were clear signs of discomfort with the decision. The Connecticut branch received scores of supportive emails after expressing frustration about the cutoffs and good will toward Planned Parenthood.

All seven Komen affiliates in California, in a joint letter to their congressional delegation, said they were “strongly opposed” to the policy change and were working to overturn it.

“Our commitment to our mission is unwavering,” the letter said. “This is a misstep in that journey and … we will do whatever it takes to do what is right for the health of women and men in California.”

In New York City, a member of the Komen affiliate’s medical advisory board said she would resign if the decision wasn’t changed soon.

“Komen is a wonderful organization and does tremendous things for women, but this is straying from their mission,” said Dr. Kathy Plesser, a radiologist. “It’s sad.”

The board of the Arkansas affiliate issued a statement noting that the decision was made at Komen headquarters “without input from affiliates,” and called for the new policy to be changed.

“We hope Komen national will reverse its position on granting to organizations under investigation because we feel decisions of this nature should be made only after the investigation is complete,” the statement said.

At the Orange County affiliate in Costa Mesa, Calif., executive director Lisa Wolter said there have been lots of exchanges with headquarters.

“We’re very troubled by the reaction, and we want to make sure there are clarifications,” she said.

The American Association of University Women, in protest over Komen’s decision, said it was scrapping plans to offer a Komen Race for the Cure as one of the activities at its upcoming National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.

“AAUW is disappointed that some are playing politics with women’s health and jeopardizing care for the most vulnerable among us,” said Lisa Maatz, the association’s director of public policy.

According to Planned Parenthood, its health centers performed more than 4 million breast exams over the past five years, including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants.

Though comments posted on Komen’s Facebook page seemed to be mostly critical of the grant decision, Brinker said at her news conference that donations to the charity had increased since Tuesday.

She also said there were other organizations receiving Komen grants, in addition to Planned Parenthood, that might be adversely affected by the new criteria about investigations, but she did not identify them.

___

Published February 02, 2012 | AP

Susan G. Komen for the Cure: http://ww5.komen.org/
Planned Parenthood: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

David Rubenstein Donates $7.5M for Washington Monument quake repairs

Despite a billionaire history buff’s pledge of $7.5 million to speed up repairs on the Washington Monument, officials say the complex work could last until August 2013 — two years after the landmark was damaged by an earthquake.

Businessman David Rubenstein said he was inspired to help fund the repairs to the 555-foot obelisk when it became clear how severely damaged it was by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake Aug. 23. The National Park Service and nonprofit Trust for the National Mall announced Rubenstein’s gift Thursday morning. It is the largest gift to the nonprofit group that’s working to restore the mall.

The repair job will be no easy task, though. A design process is under way to determine how to do the work, and federal officials hope to award a contract by August to begin construction. From there it will take about a year, according to the best estimates.

The repairs may involve building huge scaffolding around the monument, as was the case during a restoration project from 1999 to 2001. Officials said they don’t yet know whether scaffolding will be necessary.

Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall, said the park service is working to get the monument reopened as quickly as possible. But such an undertaking has never been done before, so the exact timeline is uncertain.

“This is a complex job,” Vogel said. “This is a one-of-a-kind structure that poses challenges for repair that other buildings don’t.”

Rubenstein, a co-founder of the large private equity firm The Carlyle Group, has quickly become Washington’s foremost philanthropist. He is among the nation’s wealthiest people, joining Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in pledging to give away at least half of their wealth to charity.

In the past five years, Rubenstein has spent more than $83 million to support the capital city’s cultural scene through cash donations or pledges and purchases of historic documents — including copies of the Magna Carta and Emancipation Proclamation — to be shown in national institutions. Just last month, he gave $4.5 million to save the National Zoo’s giant panda program.

The Washington Monument caught his attention as soon as he learned how severely it was damaged. Chunks of stone were shaken loose and fell to the ground, and deep cracks formed at the top.

Rubenstein said he wanted to help make certain the monument can be reopened as quickly as possible.
“Really, this is something that was built by the American people because of their admiration and love of George Washington,” he said, noting $1 donations were collected to build the structure for a little more than $1 million. With his own many donations in Washington, Rubenstein said, “I kind of want to repay a debt I have to the country.”

Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said the monument will reopen sooner, thanks to Rubenstein. The Park Service wasn’t given enough money this year to fund the complete restoration on its own, he said.

“I would suggest it hadn’t even stopped shaking before David Rubenstein came to me and asked if he could help,” Jarvis said.

Congress allocated $7.5 million in December on the condition that private donations match that amount. The combined $15 million in public and private funds is expected to cover the cost of repairing damage directly caused by the quake. Repairing water damage from when rain leaked through will cost more, as would a seismic study or reinforcements to strengthen the structure against future earthquakes.

The August quake was centered some 40 miles west of Richmond, Va., and was felt from Canada to Georgia. It damaged the Washington National Cathedral, where pieces of mortar rained down from its vaulted ceiling.

At the Washington Monument, panicked visitors fled down flights of stairs, but there were no deaths or serious injuries in the region. Daylight could later be seen through some of the cracks, the largest of which was reported to be at least 4 feet long and about an inch wide.

Last fall, daring engineers rappelled from the top to conduct a visual inspection of the exterior. They documented the damage but noted the monument is structurally sound. Their report in December recommended extensive repairs and reinforcements to preserve the structure. It said some marble panels were cracked all the way through near the top portion of the monument.

Rubenstein’s gift will be delivered to the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall, which aims to raise $350 million privately to restore the grounds and facilities at the heart of the nation’s capital. Many areas have become run down from over-use and inadequate funding for maintenance.

Caroline Cunningham, president of the group, said Rubenstein’s gift “demonstrates how much people care about this space.”

A design competition is under way to develop ways to improve the mall, including the Washington Monument grounds. Finalists will be chosen in May, and the group will seek funding for each project.

Construction on the monument began in 1848, but funds ran out during the Civil War, leaving just an embarrassing stump for years. It was finally completed in 1884 and was the world’s tallest man-made structure until it was eclipsed by the Eiffel Tower. It remains the tallest structure in Washington.

Rubenstein recently toured the monument and saw its damage inside. Plaques from various states and groups line the walls, paying tribute to the nation’s first president.

“Because of what he did, we have a terrific republic, and I think Americans and people all over the world want to come here and see this monument,” he said.

Rubenstein, a Baltimore native and the son of a postal worker, has made major gifts in recent years to the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center, where he serves as chairman.
“I come from very modest circumstances, and I’m very fortunate to have achieved wealth beyond what I ever expected,” he said. “I don’t think that I want to be buried with my wealth. … I’d like to have the pleasure of giving it away to things I think are good while I’m alive.”

Trust for the National Mall: http://www.nationalmall.org

By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press – Jan 19, 2012

Works of Life lifts spirit of Detroit family with a new house

Early December, Brian and Shannon Sandburg thought their world had ended after a fast moving fire ripped through their Redford home, destroying everything that they own. “I thought we were going to have sleep in our car or find a homeless shelter to stay in. I lived in a shelter with my biological mother when I was a child and I never would wish that on my own children. I was terrified,” Shannon said.

With help from Michelle Zarghami, a realtor with Real Estate One in Troy, the Call For Action team gave the Sandburg’s and their six children the ultimate Christmas gift…a new house, absolutely free.

 

The Sandburg’s entered their home with tears in their eyes. Even Brian’s mother Kathy was stunned by this turn of events
Shannon was in total disbelief, “I mean because of you, we are not going to have to live in a shelter. You don’t know what that means to a mother who loves her children. To know we now have a home of our own that nobody can take away.”

It’s all thanks to a charity called “Works Of Life”, a nationally based Christian charity that does no advertising, but routinely gives free cars and homes to needy families who have suffered a tragedy.

Michelle Zarghami researched groups that give away houses and “Works Of Life” responded in an unbelievable way.

The Call For Action Team would like to send their most heart-felt thanks to Works Of Life and to Michelle, for teaching us all what Christmas is all about. If you would like to donate to Works Of Life you can find more information at www.worksoflife.org

By: Bill Spencer

Why we give to charity

Every holiday season in America, as Thanksgiving fades and turkey sandwiches give way to Christmas trees and candy canes, Americans unleash an immense flow of charitable donations. For charities, it’s the busiest time of the year: Salvation Army bell ringers man their corners; workplace pledge drives abound.

The urge to give that is awakened around this time is an important one: Philanthropy plays a crucial role in American society, providing funding for a vast array of services. Giving also connects us as a culture: According to a study by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, nearly two-thirds of all Americans gave to charity in 2008. American charities took in nearly $300 billion in 2010.

Underlying all those donations is a mystery: Why do we give at all? From a rational perspective, it’s hard to see why people worried about their own families, taxes, and bills would want to give money to help strangers. Though the tradition of giving to the less fortunate has existed for millennia — and though researchers have long been interested in what makes humans want to help others at their own expense — social scientists have only begun to seriously examine the act of donating money in the past 20 years.

The insights they’ve drawn have been helpful to fund-raisers, enabling them to craft better campaigns and tug at our heartstrings with greater precision. But for those of us just looking to donate, and donate well, the emerging research on charitable giving has yielded a difficult truth: Thinking harder about how to give makes us less likely to give at all.

This finding is concerning in light of the strong recent push to give more rationally —  for even small individual donors to scrutinize the inner workings of charities and make sure their money is being spent productively. Research by economists and psychologists suggests that the impulse to give does not square with thinking in such a calculating way. On the contrary, it appears that giving is driven by emotional motives, rooted in deep impulses, cognitive biases, and even our own selfish needs. (Charity research isn’t necessarily flattering to donors.) And when we think too analytically about giving, we can deflate our initial generous instinct.

“What we find is that when people are thinking more deliberatively . . . they end up being less generous overall,” said Deborah Small, an associate professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Is it possible to be both generous and smart about it? A lot of donors would like to think so, but new research suggests that it may be harder than we realize. And while there may be things we can do to make sure our money doesn’t end up wasted, charity appears to be one area where we have to be extra-careful not to let our brains get in the way.

Why anyone is ever selfless is a mystery that has fascinated, not to mention frustrated, scientists since Charles Darwin, who considered it a major problem for his theory of natural selection. If every creature on earth was in competition with every other, then how to explain bees sacrificing themselves for the good of the hive, or men and women running into burning buildings to save the lives of strangers? These questions have led researchers to posit that helping others, even when it costs us dearly, is simply part of being successful social animals: Despite our imperative to compete, we ultimately find it pays off to be generous.

Of course, it’s one thing to explain why people in general are inclined to help others, and another to examine how it plays out in the mind of an individual person. Studying charitable donation has been a valuable window into that process for researchers, because it allows them to quantify the amount of good a person is doing, and how much he or she is giving up.

One dominant strain of thought among charity researchers is that our donations aren’t chiefly driven by concern for others, or a principled sense of altruism — that instead, it’s largely a way for us to indulge the desire to feel virtuous and happy about our role in the world. This theory was formalized in 1989 by behavioral economist James Andreoni, who described the rush of self-satisfaction and sense of purpose one experiences after committing support to a worthy cause as “warm glow.” The reason we give money, Andreoni wrote, is that it makes us feel good — regardless of how much it benefits the people we’re ostensibly trying to help.

Another prominent theory to emerge from the research is that people give because of social pressure. We want to avoid appearing selfish or coldhearted, especially in front of people who are suffering or people whose opinions we care about. We might feel this type of pressure when we find ourselves passing a homeless person on the street, or when someone at the office asks if we’d like to participate in the companywide campaign for United Way.

Those aren’t the reasons we like to think of ourselves as donating, but experimental research on charity tends to support the notion that donating and thinking occupy separate realms. Jonathan Baron, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, asked a group of participants which charity they’d rather give to: one that achieved its goals so efficiently that it could spend 20 percent of its money on advertising, or one that required more money to do the same amount of good, and thus spent less on promotion. Though the first charity was technically more efficient, people tended to favor the latter: What mattered to them was seeing more of their own money at work, Baron concluded, rather than the amount of good it did.

This conclusion is bolstered by the findings of John List, an economist at the University of Chicago, who tested the effectiveness of so-called matching programs, in which a major supporter agrees to match the contributions of individual donors. List expected to find that matching programs enticed people to give, by creating the (correct) impression that their money would go further. But List’s results were curious: While charities that offered a matching program did inspire more people to give than charities that didn’t, he was surprised to find that a higher matching ratio didn’t lead to larger donations. People whose donations would be quadrupled — a huge increase in the power of their gift — didn’t donate any more money than people whose donations would simply be doubled. “People get utility or satisfaction out of giving to a good cause. And they do not care how much public good is provided,” List said.

The lesson Baron took from his own research is that would-be philanthropists need to be more thoughtful: “People don’t ask themselves enough, ‘What is this charity actually doing, and what good does it do, and how important is that good?’” Baron has revised his own giving strategy, so that instead of spreading a number of small gifts across 10 different charities, he now focuses it on a couple of organizations that he believes will do the most with his money.

Can more of us be like Baron, and harness our charitable impulses while making smarter decisions about where our money is going? The latest findings from psychology suggest it’s unlikely — that when it comes to giving, at least, the deliberative thinking that’s associated with making informed choices actually makes it less likely that a person will give at all.

Small, of the Wharton School, conducted an experiment with George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University and Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon showing that when people were given more facts and statistics about the problem a charity was trying to address, they actually became less likely to donate. The best approach for a charity raising money to feed hungry children in Mali, the team found, was to simply show potential donors a photograph of a starving child and tell them her name and age. Donors who were shown more contextual information about famine in Africa — the ones who were essentially given more to think about — were less likely to give. Small sees her findings as evidence of a kind of contest going on inside of each of us, one that pits our emotional side against our intellect in a battle for control over our behavior.

Small’s findings are backed up by Daniel Oppenheimer, a psychologist at Princeton and coeditor of the book “The Science of Giving,” who found that simply giving people information about a charity’s overhead costs makes them less likely to donate to it. This held true, remarkably, even if the information was positive and indicated and the charity was extremely efficient.

“When we start thinking about it, we might start analyzing it,” Small said. “Is this really going to be effective? Is this going to be the best use of my money? How else might I spend my money? What happens is you stop feeling.”

For humans, who distinguish themselves from beasts in part through their analytical powers, this is a troubling conflict. Why should thinking be the enemy of generosity? What does it mean that as soon as we enter the “deliberative mindset,” to use Small’s term, we become less altruistic towards our fellow man?

One reason analytical thinking might have this effect on the charitable impulse is that, once people really think through what the charity they’ve selected might accomplish with their money, they start realizing just how little their contribution is going to help. This is sometimes referred to as the “drop in the bucket” effect. According to List, thinking about all the people you’re not helping when you donate — the millions of children left to starve for each one you save — makes the act of giving a lot less satisfying. “If you really did the calculus,” List said, “my 25 dollars to the Sierra Club means nothing on the margins. So if I wanted to be really analytical about it, I’m not going to give.” According to List, that means that a world in which everyone thinks rationally about their charitable decisions might mean the most efficient, best organizations get the most money — but it might also be a world in which far less money actually gets donated.

To help donors give more rationally without getting too hung up in analysis, organizations such as GiveWell and Charity Navigator have set up websites that highlight good charities with simple rankings and “Top Ten” lists, rather than a complicated stream of financial information. “We do the analytics for you,” said Ken Berger, chief executive and president of Charity Navigator. (Small agrees that these can be a helpful way around the problem she identified — “a shortcut for donors so they don’t have to think too much.”)

For donors worried that even that much analysis might be overthinking, one solution might be to treat charity a different way — neither as an impulse nor a research project, but more as an appetite, one we can both indulge and control. Lise Vesterlund, an economist at the University of Pittsburgh, doesn’t share the dominant view of charity as being motivated primarily by people’s desire to attain prestige and feel good about themselves. Instead, she argues that existing research points to something she calls “the temptation to do good.” As she sees it, people are preprogrammed to help those who are suffering, and when we make an impulsive decision to give money to charities that don’t necessarily make the best use of it, we’re essentially indulging that temptation the way we’d indulge a sugar craving.

But appetites can be healthy, too, and Vesterlund’s solution is to be sure we indulge them the right way: essentially, putting carrots closer at hand than a chocolate bar. If you know that donating money to a food bank this holiday season is going to go further towards helping the poor than giving the same amount in quarters to panhandlers, then decide that’s how you’ll do it when the appetite strikes.

“We all know this time of year we’re getting tons of solicitations,” Vesterlund said. “If before going into the season you say, ‘I want to make substantial charitable donations, and these are the organizations I want to give to,’ you don’t fall prey to the temptations.”

Donate now! Visit With Causes Charitable Organization