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Microfinance guru wins Nobel Peace Prize

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

* Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who founded Grameen Bank, which for 30 years has been granting microcredit loans to the developing world’s poorest people, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in combating rural poverty, The New York Times reported Oct. 14.

* The Boy Scouts are losing legal battles against state and local governments over their membership discrimination policies, in spite of the 2000 Supreme Court ruling allowing the group to ban openly-homosexual leaders, the Associated Press reported Oct. 16.

* Donating to charity stimulates the brain’s reward center, which is responsible for the high dopamine levels associated with sex, money, food and drugs, according to a new study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, The Economist reported Oct. 12. Donating also affected the part of the brain involved in mother-child relationships and romantic love, the study says.

* A Senate Finance Committee report alleges that several nonprofits linked to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to corrupt public officials, may have been involved in fraudulent activities by carrying out Abramoff’s requests, such as writing favorable news columns or promising to arrange meetings with government officials, The New York Times reported Oct. 13. The nonprofits, which deny any wrongdoing, have not been charged with a crime but could have their tax-exempt status revoked, the report says.

* “Tempting Faith,” a new book by David Kuo, former White House Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, criticizes President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative, an effort to support religious charities, The Washington Post reported Oct. 17. “The initiative was purely about paying off political friends for their support,” Kuo writes.

* With philanthropists’ recent attention to fighting disease and poverty, museums and operas have suffered setbacks, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 14. Donations to cultural groups accounted for 5.2 percent of giving by individuals in the U.S. last year, compared to 8.1 percent a decade ago, officials say.

* Latin America is facing a lack of charitable giving, speakers said at the eighth Ibero-American Conference of the Third Sector, as international foundations turn their attention to Eastern Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia, and the region’s own corporations give less than companies in the developed world, the Associated Press reported Oct. 16.

* New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was ranked the seventh most-generous donor in the United States in 2005 by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, gave $143.9 million to 987 organizations last year, The New York Times reported Oct. 18. The number of organizations benefiting from his gifts has increased sharply from 843 in 2004 and 653 in 2003, but the level of his giving has remained fairly stable, officials say.

* In the final months before their merger, Golden West Financial Corp. made a $370 million donation to the charitable foundation of Wachovia Corp., The Charlotte Observer reported Oct. 17. The gift, in the form of securities of a third company, which Wachovia declined to name, is more than five times the $65.6 million Wachovia donated to charity in 2005 through the foundation.

* About three quarters of Latin American immigrants in the United States send money home regularly, according to a new report on immigrants’ money transfers to Latin America, The New York Times reported Oct. 19. The figure is up from about 60 percent in a 2004 survey.

* When Robert Iger, chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, went to Ithica College to kick of his alma mater’s $115 million fund-raising campaign, to which he has already donated an unknown sum, students planned a protest, raising questions about Disney’s labor practices, environmental record and the media bias in its “Path to 9/11” docudrama, The New York Times reported Oct. 16.

— Compiled by Laura Newman.

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