The Hightower Report

You don't have to be a gabillionaire to maximize your philanthropic impact; and White House's favorite government contractor mistreating foreign workers in Iraq.


GIVING CIRCLES

Why don't you become a philanthropist?

"Holy John D. Rockefeller," you say: "Do I look like Bill Gates or Michael Dell? I'm no gabillionaire, able to plaster my name on museums and such."

No, no – not that kind of philanthropist, but a much more modest type. In fact, chances are that you're already one, giving small annual donations to all sorts of educational, religious, civic, and other charitable groups. In fact, the middle class and even poor people tend to be more charitable than the rich, giving a bigger percentage of their meager incomes than those with billions of bucks.

But there's another way to organize your giving so that you might have a bigger impact, as well as have a good time doing it. A growing number of ordinary folks are forming "giving circles" with their friends, family, co-workers, and ... well, with whomever you choose. Your circle might meet once a month or so to pool your small donations – maybe $10 or $20 or $50 each. Then, you jointly choose a nonprofit group, a family, or a person to receive the money.

By pooling, your funds have a greater impact on the recipient, and by jointly making decisions the whole charitable process becomes more personal. By the way, don't forget to find ways that'll make your circle gatherings fun – meet for a picnic, have a little beer and wine, add some music, and otherwise get in the joyous spirit.

You don't have to be rich or a big shot. A nurse in Greenville, S.C., for instance, started a circle of women who meet for a monthly potluck supper, rotating the meeting among the homes of members. Even with average monthly giving of about $25, they've done such meaningful projects as paying for two years of nursing school for an East African woman. "You feel more personally involved," says the founder of this circle. "And it makes us feel more connected."

If you feel you need help in starting your own circle, there is a giving forum with tips and examples. Go to www.givingforum.org.


HALLIBURTON'S "TCNs'

Is any low too low for Halliburton?

This giant government contractor with tentacles running straight into the White House has previously been caught overcharging U.S. taxpayers and shortchanging U.S. troops for its work in Iraq. But now we learn that Halliburton has been profiting in Iraq by mistreating foreign workers.

By "foreign," I don't mean Iraqis, even though thousands of folks there are desperate for jobs. Instead, I mean impoverished Asian laborers brought by the thousands into Iraq from southern India, Thailand, and the Philippines to work for Halliburton on U.S. bases as cooks, electricians, launderers, custodians, etc. They are mostly twentysomethings – powerless and exploited.

When recruited, most have no idea they are headed for a war zone. Once there, they are branded as TCNs – Third Country Nationals – which is both a derogatory term and an assurance of third-class treatment, at best. They are paid a fraction of what other Halliburton workers get, and their meager paychecks are often several months behind, keeping them in debt and in place. They work 12-hour days and are allowed only one day a month off – without pay.

The TCNs are housed in cramped trailers jammed end to end with bunk beds. They're not allowed to eat with the Americans, nor do they even get to eat the same food – their's is shipped in from elsewhere and often is cold and tasteless. They cannot use the Internet, the phone center, or the recreation facility. Even though their bases regularly come under attack, TCNs are issued no body armor or helmets.

It's bad enough that Halliburton is doing this at all, but it's far worse that it's doing it under our flag, in our name. What must Iraqis and Asians think as they watch how one of our country's most favored corporations treats workers who are nonwhite and poor?

To learn more, go to the globalization watchdog group CorpWatch: www.corpwatch.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Halliburton, Iraq War, Third Country Nationals, corpwatch, giving circles, philanthropy, www.givingforum.org

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