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Bush administration fights for anti-prostitution pledge

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

* The Bush administration is seeking to overturn a court decision that allows nonprofits to apply for federal funding to help prevent AIDS without signing a pledge opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, The Baltimore Sun reported Oct. 10. Even though the Justice Department argues the pledge conditions are essential to fighting AIDS and HIV, some nonprofits who distribute condoms to protect prostitutes have refused to sign it.

* Sam Bodman, U.S. Energy Secretary, says he will not turn down donations of cheap heating fuels from Venezuela this winter, even though Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and President Bush are highly critical of each other, Reuters reported Oct. 10. Citgo Petroleum, backed by Chavez, plans to expand its program subsidizing home-heating oil for poor Americans, doubling the number of states receiving cheap fuel, officials say.

* Recent donations have helped boost programs aimed at producing vaccines for diseases that primarily affect the world’s poorest people, The Washington Post reported Oct. 11. Recent grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Doctors Without Borders totaling $53 million have provided financial incentives to develop vaccines that would have otherwise not been economically possible.

* Since 1989, Congress has passed more than 200 laws protecting or exempting religious groups from regulation and taxes, The New York Times reported Oct. 8. Legislation has included such topics as pensions, immigration, land use and social services, officials say.

* With 141 patient-advocacy groups already in place for the 43,000 Americans diagnosed annually with benign or malignant brain tumors, advocates are increasingly debating the extent to which this large number of organizations is hindering rather than helping their efforts, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 10.

* During a Salesforce.com conference, former Secretary of State Colin Powell called on corporations to provide sustainable philanthropy programs rather than giving a “one-time drop,” ZDNet reported Oct. 12. In his introductory speech, Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff noted that Powell inspired Salesforce’s own corporate donations program.

* After a trip to Malawi, during which Madonna met with government officials, charity workers and visited orphanages, the pop star has pledged to donate approximately $3 million to a Malawi charity that supports orphans, The Washington Post reported Oct. 9. Despite appreciation, the donation has raised questions about the extent to which such aid can provide long-term solutions and is not simply a public relations stunt increasingly popular among celebrities.

* Boston-based Fidelity Investments announced that it will lower to $5,000 from $10,000 the minimum contributions individuals are required to make in order to create donor-advised charitable funds, a type of giving program that allows donors to make a contribution and claim immediate tax deductions for monies to be donated in the future, the Associated Press reported Oct. 5. Corporate accounts will continue to have a $100,000 minimum, officials say.

— Compiled by Laura Newman

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