Trio gives $50 million for nuclear-fuel reserve

Here are the week’s top nonprofit news stories reported elsewhere:

* Billionaire Warren Buffett, CNN founder Ted Turner and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn pledged $50 million to a United Nations agency to create a uranium stockpile to ensure worldwide access to low-grade fuel for nuclear power plants and discourage countries from developing their own nuclear programs, the Associated Press reported Sept. 19.

* With midterm elections in less than two months, the IRS is increasing its surveillance of churches and charities to ensure enforcement of laws limiting nonprofits’ involvement in partisan political campaigns, The New York Times reported Sept. 18.

* Richard Branson, British founder of the Virgin Group, has brought to the U.S. his independent charity, Virgin Unite, which brings together financing and volunteers from his company and the public, The New York Times reported Sept. 19. Virgin Unite aims to support business models that lead to social and environmental change, help entrepreneurs and connect people to worldwide grass-roots organizations.

* The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $68.2 million to help four organizations fight three tropical diseases affecting hundreds of millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, The Associated Press reported Sept. 14.

* George Lucas, “Star Wars” creator and University of Southern California Film School alum, donated $175 million to his alma mater, the largest single gift ever to the school, The Los Angeles Times reported Sept. 20. The money mainly will be used to build a new 137,000 square-foot film-school complex.

* The Aug. 29 deadline has passed for New Orleans homeowners to signal what they plan to do about their damaged residences, but requests for free house-gutting are still coming in, The Times Picayune reported Sept. 18. Nonprofit organizations offering the service, however, lack the volunteers and capacity to meet demand.

* NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital trustees and executives have given tens of thousands of dollars to help fund a Democratic campaign to regain a majority in the U.S. Senate, The New York Sun reported Sept. 15. A Democratic majority would cost Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has launched an investigation of not-for-profit hospitals, his post as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but hospital officials claim that the political action committee that is providing these contributions is independent from the hospital.

* Most charities have stayed away from the debate over whether to repeal the estate tax, which may reduce charitable donations from wealthy individuals, because many of their board members may be affected by a change in the law, the International Herald Tribune reported Sept. 18. The estate tax affects those leaving assets greater than $2 million; new legislation would charge a rate of 55 percent to all estates over $1 million.

* The IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of Operation Rescue West, an anti-abortion group that had promised tax deductions for contributions to help defeat U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, The New York Times reported Sept. 15. Losing the tax exemption will have little impact on the group’s operations, officials say.

* The estate of Frederic N. Schwartz, former chairman and CEO of Bristol-Myers Co. and 1931 Syracuse University alum, donated $26.5 million to his alma mater for student scholarship support, The Associated Press reported Sept. 14. The gift, the school’s largest ever, represents a 19 percent increase in the financial aid portion of the university’s endowment.

— Compiled by Laura Newman

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