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US, Nigeria, Canada nonprofits get MacArthur aid

20 February 2014, 08:25

Chicago — The MacArthur Foundation has chosen seven organizations in three nations to receive its annual nonprofits grants, awarding as much as $1 million to groups whose work range from promoting the rights of Nigerian women to researching anti-crime programs in Chicago.

The U.S.-based foundation announced the grants Thursday. It says the nonprofits are getting the funds in recognition of past success and future endeavors.

Five groups will receive $1 million each. They are the Washington-based National Housing Trust, which preserves and improves affordable housing; NatureServe, a Virginia-based group that promotes environmental conservation; New York-based investigative reporting group ProPublica; the Citizen Lab of Toronto, which helps monitor political activity that could affect human rights; and the University of Chicago Crime Lab, whose focus is on urban crime rates.

Grants of $750,000 each were given to Nigeria's Women's Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, which promotes and protects the rights of women, and the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, which seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics.

The Citizen Lab of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto helps other nonprofits monitor governmental political activities in cyberspace and the human rights violations that could result. The organization gained prominence in 2009, when it issued a report documenting cyber espionage that targeted and compromised computer systems in the Offices of the Dalai Lama. The espionage was linked to China's hacking community.

Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert said he was blown away by the MacArthur award.

"We look in places where government and companies don't always want us to look," Deibert said.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent group that hands out about $230 million in grants annually. It may be best known for its "genius grants," $500,000 no-strings-attached fellowships that have gone to hundreds of people since 1981.

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- AP

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