Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Checking Up on Charities

Have you ever wondered where the money you give to charities goes? How much of your contribution to a charitable organization is spent on its charitable mission and how much is spent on fund-raising and other administrative expenses? The two sites discussed below compile information on charitable organizations to help you make informed decisions on giving.

Charity Navigator provides information on approximately 3,400 organizations that have tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and rates them using a four-star system. The ratings combine scores of several measures of organizational efficiency and capacity, based on the financial information each charity provides annually in its informational tax returns. Charity Navigator also provides peer analysis, financial statements, contact information, and privacy policies, when available, for each charity rated. Search for a particular charity or browse by category, region, or alphabetically by name. Free membership allows you to use a variety of additional tools. Tips & Resources and Articles & News do not require registration.

American Institute of Philanthropy publishes a triannual Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report, which informs donors about how approximately 500 national charities spend their money and provides current awareness on issues related to charitable giving. AIP's overall grades, ranging from A+ to F, are based on in-depth financial analyss of audited financial statements and other reports. Although full access to the Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report is only available with a $35/year membership, you can view AIP's Top-Rated Charities and their grades, an A-Z listing of the charities included in the Charity Rating Guide, Tips for Giving Wisely, and selected articles from the Watchdog Report for free. For example, see Seven Tips for Reducing Unwanted Mail and Phone Appeals.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Clustered Search Options from VivĂ­simo

Vivísimo is probably best known for its clustering search, which organizes search results into topical folders and subfolders called clusters. These clusters give researchers a quick overview of the types of information retrieved and help them focus on topics that are more on-point to their research. Although Vivísimo designs its products for its customers, it openly demonstrates its products on public information sources.

Vivísimo's consumer search site is Clusty. In addition to its default Web+ search, Clusty has tabs for searching News, Images, Shopping, Encyclopedia, Gossip, eBay, Blogs, or Slashdot, and allows the researcher to create customized tabs. The Advanced search allows the researcher to choose which search engines will be used for each search. Clusty's search results are clustered using the Vivísimo clustering engine. For a more detailed description, see the press release or take the Clusty Tour by clicking on the Tour link below the Clusty search box.

Vivísimo also has several demos of its clustering search that can be helpful to legal researchers. For example, using the search box and drop-down menu on the Vivísimo home page, you can run clustered searches of FirstGov or eBay, among others. Click on the Demos button at the top of a Vivísimo page to see a list of specialized demo searches. Recent demos have included clustered searches of the 9/11 Commission Report, the U.S. government's 2005 budget, and the CIA's report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Thanks to WisBlawg and Search Engine Watch for the links.

Monday, December 06, 2004

New Books and Videos in the Law Library

The SIU Law Library's Selected List of Recent Acquisitions is a listing by subject of items purchased by or given to the Law Library during the previous month. November's list includes three pages of titles added to the Browsing Collection - that area near the reference desk that has bestsellers and videos you can check out.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Brown v. Board of Education speakers and sources

At last night’s Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture, Cheryl Brown Henderson and John Stokes shared with us some of the stories behind two of the five consolidated class-action lawsuits that came to be known as Brown v. Board of Education.

Dr. Henderson, whose father was the named plaintiff in the Topeka, Kansas, case, began by debunking some of the myths about Brown that pervade the web. The myths on which she gave us the true story included:
  • Brown v. Board of Education was the first legal challenge to racially segregated schools in the United States.

  • The Brown case was filed by the father of a little girl who wanted to go to her neighborhood school in Topeka but was denied access because it was a school for whites only.

  • The Topeka lawsuit listed Oliver Brown first of the thirteen plaintiffs because he was the first plaintiff to sign on or the first alphabetically.

If you do a web search for Brown v. Board of Education, you will find these myths and others on many of the web pages that search engines retrieve. You can research Brown on the web, you just need to distinguish the credible and authoritative sites from all the rest. Dr. Henderson told us of three web sites she knows to be authoritative. They are: Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research at

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site at

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA):

John Stokes was one of the plaintiffs in Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, et al, another of the five consolidated cases. Davis was the only case of the five in which the plaintiffs were all students, rather than parents. Dr. Stokes described for us the situation that led to the students filing one of the lawsuits that were eventually consolidated into Brown et al v. Board of Education of Topeka et al.

Dr. Stokes recommended a book by Richard Kluger, Simple Justice : The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality. The law library has three copies of Simple Justice at call number KF 4155 .K55.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Apologies to Jeremy Richey. I linked to his blawg a couple of weeks ago and described him as "a second year law student at an unnamed Illinois law school." In fact, he is one of our own, an SIU school of law student. Mr. Richey's A Few Words of Encouragement has such good advice that I am going to use this excuse to link to it again.

How to Write a Good Appellate Brief

Here is an article by Andrew L. Frey and Roy T. Englert, Jr., of Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw, whose Supreme Court and appellate practice group host

I learned about this article from The Illinois Trial Practice Weblog, one of my favorite blawgs. It is a treasure chest of practical information, much of which you can start using while you are still in law school. Check it out.