Beware Obscene Charity Scams

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When someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer, you want to do something right away. You visit doctors, advisors, anyone who might help. The next step for me was to find an organization whose mission was the same as mine—to fight our common enemy: lung cancer.

My son and I corralled a posse of friends and family to join us in a Lung Force Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We raised more than $3,300 for the American Lung Association. We were on a roll and it felt good.

What didn’t feel good were the stories that hit major news outlets soon after.  It seems not all organizations are as reputable as the American Lung Association. Charges were recently filed against four cancer charities who allegedly scammed donors out of $187 million dollars over several years. Instead of helping cancer patients, the money was spent on lavish vacations, gym memberships, jet ski excursions and dating website subscriptions.  About 3% was directed toward the cause they espoused.

Complaints against the Cancer Fund of America, the Children’s Cancer Fund, the Breast Cancer Society and Cancer Support Services included charges that “they operated as personal fiefdoms characterized by rampant nepotism, flagrant conflicts of interest and excessive insider compensation.”  As I understand it, the government’s objective is to shut down these charities. A rather tepid goal in my view. Instead, I’d like to see the clowns who run these phony charities thrown in jail.

My takeaway is this: Don’t stop giving to worthy charities. Just first make sure your charity IS worthy. A good place to start is by going to Charity Navigator.  You’ll find vital info here including board member compensation, income stats, transparency and performance metrics, and lots more.  Give wisely: but before you open your checkbook, check out your charity first.

What Do Women Want? An End to Fear.

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That’s not an easy question to answer. But something I know we’d all like to see is an end to the fear and violence experienced daily by so many women around the world.  Unfortunately, there’s a ton of bad news about women making headlines lately, including…

The recent abduction of almost 300 young schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The justification given by the extremist Muslim group Boko Haram for committing this horrific kidnapping is “retribution.” They see women as subhuman—chattel without rights. To make things worse, the odds of rescuing these girls gets lower by the day. One reason is that the Nigerian military whose job it is to find these unfortunate hostages is untrained, poorly armed, and riddled with corruption.

The stoning death of a young, pregnant Pakistani woman in front of the high court in the city of Lahore.
Her crime:  marrying the man she loved. Almost as awful as the act itself, is reading that her attackers included 20 members of the woman’s own family, including her father and brothers. So much for the “honor” in honor killings.

Two sisters, ages 14 and 15, gang-raped and lynched in their Northern India village.
These sisters were attacked after going into a field to relieve themselves because they didn’t have a toilet at home. India is “famous” for its lax treatment of sexual crimes. Last year, after the brutal gang rape and death of a New Delhi student made headlines around the world, India finally passed a law making gang-rape a crime punishable by death. However, violence against women hasn’t stopped, nor has the prevailing attitude toward sexual violence. Soon after this law was passed, the head of Uttar Pradesh’s governing party announced that he opposed the law. His incredible quote was: “Boys will be boys. They make mistakes.”

The criticism and “shock” following comments by NYC’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray in a recent interview concerning motherhood and her infant daughter.
“I was 40 years old. I had a life. The truth is I could not spend every day with her.”  In no way do I put this flack in the same category as the violent offences above, but in my mind, it’s also noteworthy.

Okay, here’s the possible good news:

This week in London, Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague are powering the world’s first Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Government ministers, military and judicial officials, along with activists from 150 nations are attending the summit to combat rape as a weapon of war, help its victims, treat sexual violence as a priority, and tackle the culture of impunity that exists in many countries.

“It’s a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians, done to torture and humiliate people and often to very young children,” Jolie said. “We need to see real commitment and go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in to help the worst-affected countries.”

After feeling horror, disgust, anger, and sorrow when reading about these crimes, I think that perhaps there may be hope. I also feel gratitude for living in a country that tries to right the wrongs, with police we can trust, and institutions that are designed to afford protection.