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US Senator Demands Answers on Red Cross' Finances
Prompted by an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley asks the charity to explain how it has used donations from the public
 
Citing an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley is asking the American Red Cross to explain more clearly how it uses public donations, specifying how much money goes to services and how much to overhead. 
 
"The public's expectation for an important, well-known organization like the Red Cross is complete, accurate fundraising and spending information," Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. "In reaction to the news reports on this topic, I'm asking the Red Cross to elaborate on how it calculates the facts and figures given to the donating public."
 
Americans typically look to the Red Cross whenever disaster strikes, giving generously. The iconic charity took in over $1 billion in donations in 2013.
 
In response to Grassley's request, the Red Cross said it is setting up a briefing for the senator's staff that will happen sometime later this month. "We welcome and look forward to the opportunity," Red Cross spokeswoman Suzy DeFrancis said.
 
Grassley's request was first reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
 
At issue are statements made by Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern and echoed on the charity's website and in other published materials that "91 cents of every dollar that's donated goes to our services."
 
But that oft-repeated figure is not borne out by the charity's statements in annual reports and tax filings. These documents show that fundraising expenses alone have eaten up as much as 26 cents of every donated dollar in recent years.
 
After our inquiries last month, the Red Cross removed the statement from its website. The Red Cross said at the time that the claim was not "as clear as it could have been, and we are clarifying the language."
 
Grassley has long pushed for tougher regulations of nonprofits and has a history with the Red Cross. In 2007, he pushed through legislation that overhauled the governance structure of the charity, which was chartered by Congress over a century ago.
 
Grassley isn't the only one nosing into the Red Cross' operations. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is looking into the charity's troubled response to Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey in late 2012.
 
The GAO's inquiry, which was first reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, began last February after a request from the staff of Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee. Since then, the GAO and the Red Cross have been discussing the parameters of the study. The GAO says it plans to finalize its methodology "within the next couple of weeks" and then begin working on the inquiry itself.
 
The scope of the GAO's probe is expected to encompass more institutional questions, including "What are the nature and extent of the oversight to which the organization is subject, and is it sufficient?"
 
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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Massachusetts Tightens Rules on Restraining, Secluding Students

Under new rules, Massachusetts schools will not be allowed to use certain techniques to restrain or isolate students as frequently and will have to report all restraints and injuries

 

Schools in Massachusetts will be subject to new limits on physically restraining or isolating public school students under reforms ushered in late last year.
 
School staff members will no longer be permitted to pin students face-down on the floor in most instances and will need a principal's approval to keep children in a "time out" away from class for more than a half-hour.  The changes -- which will be phased in this fall and officially take effect in January 2016 -- also require state officials to collect comprehensive data on how often schools restrain or seclude students and how often someone is hurt as a result.
 
Massachusetts' reforms were shaped, in part, by a June story by ProPublica and NPR that showed physical holds and isolation remain common in public schools across the country. Our analysis of federal data revealed these techniques were used more than 267,000 times in the 2012 school year, with some schools employing them dozens – or even hundreds – of times.
 
There's a growing awareness that, in some cases, children can suffer serious injuries and lasting trauma from such treatment. At least 20 children have died while being held down or left alone in seclusion rooms.
 
Spurred by tougher state and federal regulations, as well as professional standards, psychiatric and health care institutions have worked diligently over the past decade to limit their use of restraints and seclusion.
 
But rules governing public schools have remained more scattershot. The U.S. Department of Education issued restrictions, but made them voluntary. State and local authorities passed a patchwork of regulations that left dangerous techniques illegal in some places but perfectly acceptable in others. For instance, some states don't let schools use restraints that can restrict breathing – such as face-down "prone" restraints –on any children. But others do.
 
 

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Mahinda Rajapaksa loses Sri Lanka's presidential elections to Maithripala Sirisena

Outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat in the presidential elections in Sri Lanka

 

In a major upset, Maithripala Sirisensa won the presidential elections in Sri Lanka, the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat in a statement today.
 
PM Modi congratulates Sirisena in a letter and said that he looked forward to receiving him in India soon.
 
Sirisena was a minister in Rajapakse's cabinet until a little while ago when he defected to the opposition and threw his hat in the presidential race.
 
He won the election on a consolidation of the minority votes and on the plank of rolling back some of the accumulation of power that had accrued to the position of the president under Rajapaksa.
 
Rajapakse was riding a wave of popularity after his crushing the Tamil Tigers resistance following decades of violence. Recent tensions between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil and Muslim minorities had sparked discontent against his rule.
 
Rajapaksa's administration had been growing increasingly close to China, which had caused discomfort to Indian interests and long term strategy, however, Sirisena fought the elections on the dual promises of dismantling the Rajapaksa coterie's power and blocking what he termed, 'Chinese colonialism' in Sri Lanka.
 
The new President will be sworn in today in the evening at the official Presidential residence in Colombo.
 

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