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At Nonprofit Organizations, a Lack of Regulation Invites Failure

Financial mismanagement at Cooper Union has the NY attorney general’s sights set on NGOs.

Cooper Union. Image by I, DavidShankbone via Wikimedia Commons

This April, New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced plans to crack down on Cooper Union, a private college renowned for its arts and design programs and the practice of offering a tuition-free education. Until two years ago, that is, when the school suddenly started charging a non-trivial $20,000 annual fee to students. According to Schneiderman (and previous investigations by reporters in 2013) the decision to charge directly stems from the failure of the nonprofit institution’s board to manage their endowment and physical assets—which include the land under the Chrysler building. The board allegedly took on unnecessary debts, failed to cultivate donor bases, and never really attempted to diversify their holdings, even in the face of financial instability. As a nonprofit, Cooper Union technically falls under Schneiderman’s regulatory oversight, allowing him to propose and foist a bevvy of procedural reforms and monitoring regimens on the institution, which he says he’s now glad to do. But this willingness goes beyond Cooper Union—according to Schneiderman, he’s apparently planning to put nonprofits on notice, bringing increasing scrutiny to organizations that often fly under the radar.

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Making the Pot Business a Little Greener

Sustainability might be the next big battle for marijuana.

Photo by Psychonaught via Wikimedia Commons

Hezekiah Allen was given his first hard lesson in the weed business back in July 1992. It was just weeks before his ninth birthday when he heard the mechanical roar of helicopters swarming towards his family’s Humboldt County, California home. The choppers hugged close to the ground; Allen could make out the troops’ eyes as his mother ushered him into their family car and peeled down the road from their house. Allen's parents, a schoolteacher and early tech industry worker, supplemented their income by growing and selling marijuana. Now 31, Allen serves as the executive director of the Emerald Growers Association (EGA), a cannabis trade group that works closely with California’s farmers and regulators on public policy. EGA not only promotes economic vitality and social conscientiousness, but they also advocate for eco-friendly practices in the new, wildly unregulated marijuana market.

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Regulators Go After Alleged Enron-Style Cheaters

Watch a free, Oscar-nominated movie. Feel more invested in a developing business story.

Barclays and four of its traders accused of manipulating energy markets may soon find themselves on the business end of record-breaking fines of $470 million from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The FERC, heavily involved in investigation of Enron's famous electricity market manipulation, was tipped off to the scheme via its hotline.

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Food for Thinkers: Synthesizing Food Safety Politics Into Something Edible

Helena Bottemiller makes sense of U.S. food policy—and shares a behind-the-scenes peek at the preparations for a White House State Dinner.

Helena Bottemiller writes daily for Food Safety News and can be found on Twitter @hbottemiller. She is my favorite guide to the Kafka-esque ins and outs of US food policy, managing to write stories about federal oversight and judicial wrangling that not only make sense of how our food system is shaped at the government level, but are actually interesting to read too. I invited her to share what food writing means to her as part of Food for Thinkers week back in January, but a back injury (and subsequent heavy doses of morphine) put her out of action. Now she's back up on her feet, and I'm thrilled to be able to post her belated contribution!

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Winning the Future with Salmon

That line that got the most laughs during Obama's State of the Union actually raises an important issue about our broken food regulatory system.


Immediately after President Obama finished his State of the Union address last night, NPR asked listeners to summarize his speech in three words. In the word cloud they generated from the 4,000 responses received (below), the word "salmon" looms rather large—larger than "jobs," much larger than "innovation," and much, much larger than "Sputnik."

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Chamber of Commerce Want Kids to Worry About Energy Regulations

Staunch opponents of the government protecting the public create an energy guide to scare kids about the dangers of regulation.


The Chamber of Commerce (long an loud opponent of any rules to protect the public) wants to scare kids about energy regulation. In a "teaching guide" that will go out to roughly 100,000 classrooms, thanks to their witless partners at Scholastic, they suggest this discussion question:

What do you think could happen if one of our energy sources were suddenly unavailable (e.g., power plant maintenance, government curb on production, etc.)?

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