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Nonprofit news roundup for Sept. 25, 2008

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Churches challenge federal tax laws

About 30 ministers across the U.S. plan to protest federal tax laws by advocating for presidential candidates in their Sunday services, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 24 (see church story). The Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Ariz., the conservative legal-advocacy group sponsoring the protest, calls the law barring tax-exempt organizations from partisan political activity unconstitutional. Proponents of the tax law argue organizations must follow certain rules if they want to keep their tax-exempt status.

Healthcare costs put pinch on families

Even for families with health insurance, the economic downturn is leaving its mark on medical expenses, The New York Times reported Sept. 24 (see health story). The total cost for family coverage now averages $12,680 a year, up 5 percent from 2007, says a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Further, nearly one in five families had problems paying medical bills last year, and more than half of these said they borrowed money to pay medical expenses, says a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Program links local farmers to world market

At the UN General Assembly in New York, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation unveiled a new $76 million initiative, in partnership with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the U.N. World Food Program, to connect local farmers to large-scale buyers, The Seattle Times reported Sept. 24 (see food story). The Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative aims to set up small farmers as suppliers for the World Food Program, the largest humanitarian organization in the world.

Universities graded on sustainability

Fifteen American and Canadian universities, five of them Ivy-League schools, earned top marks on the College Sustainability Report Card released by the Sustainable Endowments Institute in Cambridge, The Boston Globe reported Sept. 24. The study grades universities based on “green” factors such as climate change and energy policies, as well as other measures such as endowment transparency and student involvement. Two in three universities are more environmentally friendly than they were a year ago, the study says.

In Brief:

* In celebration of its 10th birthday, Google will award up to $10 million for original ideas to help solve worldwide problems, CNN reported Sept. 24.

* The Children’s Miracle Network in Salt Lake City has appointed Scott Burt, its chief operating officer, as interim leader after former CEO James Larry Hall II was accused of using $400,000 in insurance premiums to buy a house, the Associated Press reported Sept 21.

* The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s endowment generated a 3.2 percent return for the fiscal year ended June 30, increasing its assets by $88 million from the previous year, the school reported Sept. 24.

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