Altruism Today

Warren Buffett Responds to Trump’s Charge: Of Course I Paid My Taxes

October 12th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; Washington Post

Is it possible that Donald J. Trump did not know about Warren Buffett’s history of tax advocacy when he declared during Sunday’s second presidential debate that Buffett, a Clinton supporter, took “massive deductions”?

Buffett has made plenty of noise about what he sees as the inequities of our system of taxation, once revealing that in 2010 he paid only 17 percent of his taxable income in federal taxes—lower than the 25 or 30 percent rate that more than twenty of his employees paid. Buffett wrote at the time:

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for ten minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors. These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

This led to President Obama’s proposal for the “Buffett Rule,” based on the principle that no household making over $1 million annually should pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay. Buffett, a philanthropist who, in contrast to Trump, gives away his own money and gave an amount equal to 75 percent of Trump’s entire estimated net worth last year alone, responded in a statement that he in fact does pay taxes, and he is more than willing to meet “any place, any time” to swap returns with the now-unshackled Donald.

“I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited,” Buffett wrote. “I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump—at least, he would have no legal problem.”

It’s certainly not a new thought, that before anyone goes around promoting themselves as a philanthropist, they should first pay their taxes. As a sector, we should be adamant about that. In 2010, NPQ published an article by Karen Kraut, Shannon Moriarty and Kim Klein called “Talking About Taxes,” where they wrote:

A simple, easy-to-understand beginning frame also begins and ends with the common good. Peter Maurin, a teacher of Dorothy Day who also founded the Catholic Worker Movement, said that our job is to “create a society in which it is easy to be good.” Such a society has many elements, but it presumes a commitment to a rough social equity that is partly achieved by a progressive tax system. The nonprofit sector is key to insisting on this, or it will be the primary victim of its absence. It is our choice, and it must be made quickly.

I Used to Be a Human Being

October 11th, 2016  |  Source: NY Magazine

An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too.

I was sitting in a large meditation hall in a converted novitiate in central Massachusetts when I reached into my pocket for my iPhone. A woman in the front of the room gamely held a basket in front of her, beaming beneficently, like a priest with a collection plate. I duly surrendered my little device, only to feel a sudden pang of panic on my way back to my seat. If it hadn’t been for everyone staring at me, I might have turned around immediately and asked for it back. But I didn’t. I knew why I’d come here.

A year before, like many addicts, I had sensed a personal crash coming. For a decade and a half, I’d been a web obsessive, publishing blog posts multiple times a day, seven days a week, and ultimately corralling a team that curated the web every 20 minutes during peak hours. Each morning began with a full immersion in the stream of internet consciousness and news, jumping from site to site, tweet to tweet, breaking news story to hottest take, scanning countless images and videos, catching up with multiple memes. Throughout the day, I’d cough up an insight or an argument or a joke about what had just occurred or what was happening right now. And at times, as events took over, I’d spend weeks manically grabbing every tiny scrap of a developing story in order to fuse them into a narrative in real time. I was in an unending dialogue with readers who were caviling, praising, booing, correcting. My brain had never been so occupied so insistently by so many different subjects and in so public a way for so long/
Read the rest of AndrewSullivan’s NY Magazine here:

A Blended Fund That Helps Social Enterprises

October 3rd, 2016  |  Source: Forbes

There are a great many fledgling social enterprises that don’t qualify for regular bank loans. Maybe they need to build a new and expensive supply chain. Or their margins are relatively low. Or  they want to remain in a particular community, instead of engaging in rapid-fire expansion. Or they’re small sustainable farmers  who can’t find someone to move or process their  product.

That’s why, about four years ago,  RSF Social Finance, a nonprofit that makes loans, grants and investments in social enterprises, launched its integrated capital blended funds, two of them focused on farmers. The most recent of those two, Soil Health Capital Collaborative, a $1 million blended fund for sustainable farming ventures, was introduced about a year ago. The oldest: the four-year-old Local Food Capital Collaborative, a $6.45 million fund for farming infrastructure, like moving and processing meat raised by farmers using sustainable methods.

Now, RSF has announced its first Soil Health Capital disbursement, a $200,000 loan package to the Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative in Clinton, Arkansas, to finance the farmers’ purchases of feed and animals to be raised and then sold back to the co-op. There also was a $400,000 line of credit through the Local Food Capital Collaborative aimed at helping the co-op buy animals from member farmers and process them.

“As we go deeper in working with organizations with impact, we’ve realized that a standard bank-like loan is not what these enterprises need,” says Kate Danaher, senior manager, social enterprise lending and integrated capital. “This helps us work in a deeper way in all our focus areas.”

SOCAP16 and the Continued Evolution of Impact Investing

September 26th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Hat tip to Kevin Jones, SOCAP Founder 

For 2,500 social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and others passionate about the intersection of money and meaning, September’s SOCAP16 was the place to be. SOCAP (Social Capital Markets) is an annual gathering in San Francisco started in 2008 by a small group of investors focused on promoting a double bottom line—social and financial. Its stated mission is to create a platform where investors willing to put money into enterprises focused foremost on social return can meet the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs.

This year’s iteration revealed both the growing popularity of the field and the growing tension between those focused on financial returns and those focused on social returns. In an article published on the SOCAP blog at the start of the gathering, Jed Emerson, a pioneer and one of the most familiar names in the field, reflected on last year’s SOCAP and more broadly on the mainstreaming of impact investing:

It was great, because one could not help but feel we—as an increasingly diverse set of actors promoting a very nontraditional understanding of capital—had arrived!

And it was disillusioning in that it was also clear we are, as a community, still coming to grips with many fundamental questions with regard to who we are, what we believe and how best to be positioned to move forward to capture the possibilities before us.

Emerson was disappointed that much of the conversation at SOCAP15 had focused on the strategy and tactics of impact investing (the “how”) instead of on a deeper understanding of the purpose of capital (the “why”). He made a point of stating that there were people presenting themselves as impact investors “who clearly don’t get what this is about.” He explained, “It is not a conversation about tradeoffs and compromise and marginalizing profitability in order to create some fuzzy concept of charitable good.”

At SOCAP16, Jason Jenkins, CEO of Social Investment Business, felt a shift toward the why:

People are no longer asking how the metrics should fit mainstream expectations. People are asking why we should fit the mainstream expectations when many of those are entrenched to only consider risk and return, not impact?

In contrast to Emerson’s perception of SOCAP15, Jenkins perceives the emergence of a more mature field, one that has enough grounding to know where it’s going instead of wondering whether and how it will gain momentum. This confidence allows thought-leaders like Emerson to go “full circle” and question whether the community has focused enough on impact, instead of appeasing groups that have entered the impact space for a lucrative financial return above all else.

One of the most talked-about speakers at SOCAP16, Matthew Weatherley-White, managing director of The CapROCK Group, questioned why ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing had not become the default, despite the positive benefits these non-financial metrics have on portfolios. Weatherley-White argued that instead of asking investors to opt in to ESG criteria, investors should have to opt out if they want to broaden their investments to include companies that, for example, exploit workers and corrupt the market.

Weatherley-White opined that asking investors to opt out of ESG investing would be transformational. He explained the advantage of framing the ESG option as the norm, rather than a choice investors might otherwise view with cognitive bias as extraordinarily altruistic. As an analogy, he pointed to a study of organ donation policies across different countries; countries where persons had to opt out of donating organs had donation rates of 90 percent, versus rates lower than 15 percent in countries where people have to opt in.

Despite the excitement generated by Weatherly-White’s proposal, some attendees, like consultant Jean-Louis Robadey, left SOCAP16 “with the uncomfortable impression that impact is the junior partner [to investing] in these conversations.” Robadey dared impact investors to be humble, to lead with impact, and to stay on the cutting edge of innovation even as the field grows. On that last point, he recalled a particular panelist’s response to his own question, “Is Tesla an investment opportunity for impact investors?”

“I don’t think it is. Maybe five, ten years ago. But today? Do we really believe impact investors bring any additionality to Tesla’s business model?”

Uber also attracted controversy, as its head of economic research served as a panelist on investing in quality jobs in under-served communities. Martin Montero, another familiar name at SOCAP, tweeted. “So #Uber is on a panel about good job creation at #SOCAP16??? Their model: Exploitation, tax evasion & machismo. #Fail.”

But others noted the social benefit companies like Uber and Airbnb create by tapping into underutilized assets. Recognizing the diverse motivations in the field of impact investing, Emerson concluded:

As we move to scale our impact and continue to embrace the ongoing mainstreaming of our vision and practices, we need to create a truly big tent that may simultaneously hold all our various parts while also ensuring we’re all a part of the same gathering and overall movement committed to impact, equity and the effective deployment of diverse types of capital in pursuit of multiple returns.

For true impact investors, managing capital is simply the means to achieving impact and equity. The next phase in the evolution of impact investing and SOCAP will rise from a better understanding of the impact and equity that is both desired and necessary.

Is OxyContin For Kids Safe? Top 7 Concerns Addressed After FDA Decision

September 21st, 2016  |  Source:

In August 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made public its decision to approve OxyContin prescriptions for certain children between the ages of 11 and 16.

Naturally, there were parents and consumers who perceived this to be a bizarre verdict, one that could open up a world of trouble for a particularly vulnerable population. While critics like Hillary Clinton called the decision “absolutely incomprehensible,” top FDA officials stand by the controversial statement, as do many parents of children who suffer from cancer and other pain-inducing conditions.

According to NBC News, OxyContin is “a long-release version of oxycodone, an opioid that acts on the brain like heroin and is intended for only the most severe and chronic pain cases.”

OxyContin has had a bit of a sketchy history. Some may remember back in 2007 when executives of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company Purdue Pharma had to pay $600 million in fines for “[misleading] regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential to be abused.”

In the late 1990s, Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures and markets OxyContin, began promoting the drug as being safer and less addictive than Percocet and Vicodin. Since OyxContin is a slow-release or “long-acting” narcotic, relieving pain for up to 12 hours, Purdue Pharma was able to mislead consumers on exactly how safe the medication is.

On this false premise, Purdue Pharma marketed the drug aggressively and was able to push it to more than $1 billion in annual sales after just a few short years.

Will OxyContin Now Be Available To Just Any Kid?

Supporters of the FDA’s recent decision on OxyContin aren’t in any way proposing an opioid free-for-all among your pre-teens and teens. The agency is simply saying that under the right circumstances, to the right young patients, and for the right reasons, OxyContin can be a viable and safe option for pain relief.

Dr. Kathleen A. Neville, a pediatric oncologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, told The New York Times, “Just because OxyContin has been abused or prescribed inappropriately doesn’t mean we should deprive the children who need the drug.”

She added, “[It is] our obligation to have the best level of evidence for its use in children.”

Addressing 7 Concerns About OxyContin For Kids

Read on here:

The Small Things

September 19th, 2016  |  Source:

The Small Things, Inc. (, an organization which supports orphaned and vulnerable children and families in the Arusha District of Tanzania. The group recently announced the opening of a new community center in Nkoaranga to provide holistic services to local residents. A full press release is below with more details.

The center is the latest part of the organization’s ongoing Family Preservation Program, which serves more than 80 children who have been kept in, or reunited with their families. The organization also cares for more than 50 orphaned children full-time at Nkoaranga orphanage and Happy Family Children's Village.

Along with housing a large library, which will host everything from after-school tutoring to adult educational programs, the new facility will be the first daycare provider in the area. With such a lack of daycare options, single parents and extended families are often forced into making a heart-wrenching choice between keeping small children, or surrendering them to the orphanage so they can work. Now, they will no longer have to make that choice.

Pair of 18 yr olds cycle 10,000km: Beijing to Tehran to raise funds for children in Africa

September 13th, 2016  |  Source:

Charles Stevens and Will Hsu - both 18 - are two of the youngest people to ever to attempt the feat. They cycled the Silk Road starting in May 2016 in support of A Child Unheard, with 100-percent of all funds donated going directly to the charity.  Donations are being collected via the official JustGiving page, with nearly £25,000 already raised:

At over 10,000 kilometers, passing through nine countries with temperatures ranging from minus 10-degrees Celsius to above 45 centigrade, this has been a test at all extremities - with some impressive landscape photographs captured by the pair during their trip.

The goal of the boys’ trek has been to raise £25,000 in support of A Child Unheard, a charity working to improve the lives of children in Africa through education, sports and arts. Both Will and Charles’ have been saving up money from their part-time jobs to fund the trip themselves, ensuring that all donations will go directly to A Child Unheard via the boys’ JustGiving charity page. 

The 10,000 kilometers covered nine countries and took Will and Charles four months to complete, from May to September of this year, and over the 120 days the boys have climbed to over 4,000 meters while descending below sea level. Supporters have been able to keep in touch with the Beijing-to-Tehran duo and monitor their progress via their blog on, where they have also been sharing amazing photos and stories during their journey.

Another $7B for Needy Harvard—Fundraising Campaign Well Ahead of Schedule

September 8th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; Harvard Magazine

Anyone who hangs around Harvard Square knows that the rate of construction on the Harvard campus is unusual. And no wonder—despite all of Harvard’s turmoil at its endowment operation (see recent NPQ newswire coverage here and here), it seems to be holding its own in the fundraising department. Three years ago, it set a $6.5 billion goal; as of June 30th, it had in hand $7 billion in gifts and commitments, the most that has ever been raised in a higher-education capital campaign. The drive is not due to end until June 2018, and its proceeds will be used for a variety of projects, including a lot of building.

“I am deeply grateful to everyone who has participated in this outstanding effort so far,” said President Drew Faust in a statement:

Our aspirations speak to our larger hopes not only for a better Harvard, but also for a better world—a world changed by the students we educate, the knowledge we pursue, and the discoveries and innovations we generate every day on our campus. The support we’ve received thus far resounds with confidence in the enduring value of this work and the essential role that Harvard—and all of higher education—plays in society.

Harvard Magazine reports, “Harvard has been able to maintain gifts and pledges at an annual rate of about $1 billion.” It projects that total campaign proceeds will be $9 billion or more. And yet, Harvard University is still, this year, refusing to pay the full amount requested by the City of Boston as a payment in lieu of taxes.

Judge Halts Dakota Pipeline after Attacks on Protesters

September 7th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; Minnesota Public Radio

When, on Saturday, the company working on the Dakota Access Pipeline unexpectedly began clearing a site identified last Friday in a court filing by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as a sacred burial ground, hundreds of Native American protestors rushed the site, attempting to stop the bulldozers. Security personnel working for the company then responded with dogs and pepper spray. In response, a judge, hearing a suit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, ruled that construction must stop temporarily between North Dakota’s State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe.

The tribe’s attorney, Jan Hasselman, a staff attorney with EarthJustice who represented the tribe in federal court, describes the incident as an act of provocation undertaken within hours of when a legal resolution was expected.

“Energy Transfer said to the court that we hadn’t proven that there were sacred sites or important sites in the pipeline route,” explained Hasselman to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, “and they claimed to have looked with their private consultants. So, we went and provided exactly the evidence that they said that we needed to provide. And 12 hours later, the bulldozers were out” on the very site identified in the Tribe’s filing.

It turns out that the landowner invited the tribe’s expert to conduct a formal archaeological survey observing state and federal protocols. “He went out, and he built maps of these very unique and important archaeological sites and the locations of these burials, that were right in the pipeline’s way. And that’s the information we put together and put in front of the court on Friday.”

The tribe’s lawsuit seeks to halt construction of the entire pipeline because, they allege, its completion would violate the National Historic Preservation Act, harm the water quality on the reservation and downstream, and disturb sacred sites.

Deinstitutionalization: Massachusetts Mental Health Crisis Deepens

September 6th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source Boston Globe

With the enactment of Medicaid in 1965, states were strongly encouraged to move mentally ill individuals out of state mental institutions and either back into the community or into nursing homes. This was due in part to ethical reasons: Around that time, it was becoming clear that institutions were not treating patients humanely. There was monetary encouragement as well, since both community options and nursing home placement are reimbursable services and institutions are not. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that persons with mental illness could not be institutionalized if it could be demonstrated they did not pose a danger to themselves or others and could live in society, either independently or with the support of friends and family.

In many cases, deinstitutionalization helped individuals who could function in the community be reunited with family and become contributing members of society. Unfortunately the severely mentally ill were left in a worse-off situation as these individuals and their families, if they had any, had to figure out how to navigate a fragmented health system with little support. People whose ability to be successful in society is dependent on adherence to regular medication are especially vulnerable. Often, these individuals ended up making frequent emergency room trips or becoming incarcerated. This is particularly true in states that were ill prepared for deinstitutionalization and did not have readily available community based mental health services.

Although Massachusetts was once a leader in mental health care, over the last five decades numerous administrations have cut funding for services, leading to a steady decline in services available for mentally ill individuals. Recently, the closure of many mental health practices in Massachusetts has left thousands without access to treatment, endangering the patients as well as the public. The Boston Globe Spotlight team reports that about one third of the mental health providers in Massachusetts closed their doors between 2013 and 2015, with that pattern continuing into the current year. With reimbursement rates so low that providers lose money on each client, it’s no wonder that practices cannot stay afloat.

Further, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, Massachusetts spends less per capita on mental health care than other states of comparable means. Over the last twenty years, the state has cut spending on in-patient mental health services by half, but outpatient funding remained stagnant.

While the state cut funding for mental health programs to close its budget, it is the public who has paid the ultimate price. The Spotlight team uncovered multiple stories of severely mentally ill individuals falling through cracks in the system and hurting either themselves or others. While the vast majority of individuals with mental health issues will never become violent, the few that have that potential need treatment and close monitoring—neither of which is guaranteed with Massachusetts’ fragmented system.

After five decades of a system that has failed patients, their families, and the public at large, Massachusetts must start fixing this broken system. Barbara Rhuda of the Massachusetts branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness perhaps explained it best: “The state did not want to put the kind of money in that needed to be done to make a viable system. I think it’s come back to kick them all in the you-know-what.”

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