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Nonprofit news roundup for May 20, 2008

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NAACP chooses new leader

The NAACP has chosen human-rights activist Benjamin Todd Jealous, age 35, as its new president and CEO, The Baltimore Sun reported May 17. The youngest person to lead the nation’s oldest civil-rights organization, he formerly headed the Rosenberg Foundation and, previously, Amnesty International’s U.S. Human Rights Program. His appointment was not without controversy, but Rosetta Thurman says May 17 in her blog, Perspectives From The Pipeline, that his age may help him bridge the generation gap facing many traditional civil rights groups.

‘Disaster fatigue’ could be limiting U.S. relief efforts

“Disaster fatigue” may be setting in as bodies pile up in the wake of the cyclone in Myanmar and earthquake in China, slowing American aid to little more than a trickle, The Associated Press reported May 19. Americans have given about $12.1 million to charities working in Myanmar, with numbers not yet available for China aid. Other factors in the slow aid response include a tough economy, lack of sympathy for the repressive governments involved, and doubts about whether aid will get through.

Myanmar accepts more aid, through Asians countries

Myanmar is accepting more aid for cyclone victims, but donations from Western countries must now be channeled through Asean, the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, The Wall Street Journal reported May 20. Some Asean diplomats see the move as designed to prevent Myanmar’s citizens from associating the increased inflows of help with the U.S. and other Western countries critical of its military-junta government.

More reforms suggested for Smithsonian

The Government Accountability Office has approved governance changes by the Smithsonian Institution’s board of regents but says other reforms are needed, particularly a plan for self-assessment and discipline of board members, The Washington Post reported May 16. The GAO still has questions about the fundamental role of the 17-member regent board, which includes officials from the government’s thee branches, including the U.S. Chief Justice and vice president. Members can be removed only by Congressional order.

Habitat buying foreclosed property

The foreclosure crisis has become a boon for Habitat for Humanity chapters throughout the U.S. that are snapping up vacant lots and empty homes for as little as half price, The Associated Press reported May 19. But Habitat officials say they are not capitalizing on the pain of others, merely putting unoccupied properties that might otherwise attract crime and slumlords back into use for families at affordable prices.

Gore gets $1-million prize from Israeli fund

The Dan David Foundation in Israel has awarded former U.S. Vice President Al Gore its annual “present” prize for his work in raising public awareness of the dangers of fossil fuels, The Associated Press reported May 19. The prize, which carries a $1 million award, also has a “past” category won by Israeli author Amos Oz, British playwright Tom Stoppard and Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, and a “future” category that went to Ohio State University researchers Ellen Moseley-Thompson and Lonnie G. Thompson for their work on geological and environmental records in ice cores.

In Brief:

* Monied and elite institutions like Ford’s Theatre, the Washington National Opera, and the National Building Museum were among the top beneficiaries of earmarks in this year’s mayoral budget in Washington, D.C., Colbert I. King said in an op-ed in The Washington Post May 17.

* Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick helped two nonprofits get grants during his stint in the Michigan House of Representatives, and those groups in return paid $175,000 to a company owned by Kilpatrick’s wife, The Detroit Free Press reported May 18.

* The University of Utah has received its largest corporate donation ever, a contribution of $15 million for its new natural history museum from Kennecott Utah Copper, Deseret News reported May 15.

* Small theaters are fighting for space in large urban centers like New York and Los Angeles, as traditional struggles with evictions and soaring rents are heightened by the recent real-estate boom and bust, Back Stage reported May 15.

* West-Bank Palestinians are seeking backing for $2 billion in development projects at this week’s investors’ conference in Bethlehem, The Associated Press reported May 19.

* The role in urban development of artists and the cultural districts they create was the topic of a Cleveland conference that examined ways to help such “artistic urban pioneers,” Steven Litt, architecture critic at The Cleveland Plain Dealer, said in a column May 16.

* Private giving and investment from donor countries accounts for more than 75 percent of the economic dealings between the developed and developing worlds, Phillip Blain said in a column at the Wealth Bulletin May 14.

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