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Picower money is too dirty to accept

When MIT is offered millions of dollars, I suspect there’s strong pressure to just say “thank you” and not look too closely from whence the money comes. The new Brain and Cognitive Sciences building at Main and Vassar Streets was in part funded by a 50 million dollar gift from Jeffry and Barbara Picower. Jeffry Picower recently died, and according to his Will, MIT is probably going to be offered an additional 25 million dollars of Picower money sometime in the next 12 months.

MIT should reject this money. The collapse of the Madoff ponzi has laid bare how Jeffry Picower got to be so rich, and it’s not pretty. The Picowers’ money is too dirty to accept.

The court appointed Madoff Trustee (Irving Picard) is suing the Picowers for return of 7.2 billion and has made public in court a detailed and convincing case that Jeffry Picower and his wife Barbara, who ran the Picower Foundation that funded the Picower Institute of Learning and Memory at MIT, were active participants in fraud with Madoff. The Trustee found the Picowers’ Madoff accounts riddled with blatant and obvious fraud (backdating, phony tax loss statements, and unrealistic returns), and he argues that they knew their investments with Madoff were a sham.

I did my own analysis of the Picower Foundation stock portfolios (contained in IRS 990 filings) and found a pattern of (statistically) impossible short terms investment gains. Madoff shoveled out billions to the Picowers, far more money than to anyone else, constituting about 90 percent of Jeffry Picower’s wealth, 35 times more money than to Madoff’s immediate family. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. Before his death, Jeffry Picower had his chance to rebut the Trustee’s allegations in his own court filing. I’ve read it and find it vague and unconvincing.

Over the last six months I have laid out to MIT in a series of emails the case that in accepting what amounts to stolen money from the Picowers, not to mention honoring them by naming buildings, labs, and professorships after them, MIT risks damaging its integrity. Say no to any additional Picower money, and start planning the erasure of their name and influence from MIT.

— Donald Fulton ‘64

Marching for life

On January 22, 2010, tens of thousands of people descended on the nation’s capital with one message: end abortion, overturn Roe v. Wade. MIT Pro-Life organized a group that, together with students of Boston University, Northeastern, Emmanuel College, and Harvard, took to the streets of Washington D.C. demanding respect for life from the moment of conception to that of natural death.

The actual numbers from the March are hard to determine, but organizers estimated that more than 250,000 marchers attended. The MIT Pro-Life group can vouch for the size of the crowd: It took 40 minutes to start walking after the March had officially begun and that Constitution Avenue was replete with people as far as the eye could see. As to counter-protesters, we did not see a single one. Afterwards, we heard there were just a couple dozen outside the Supreme Court.

Given the number of people present, it is striking how little coverage the March garnered from the media. Is it because they are beholden to liberal interests, as some claim? Or is it because this was the 37th annual march and society has gotten used to these demonstrations over the years? In the latter case, it says a lot about our civilization. The counter-protesters at least knew this was a matter of life and death, a matter on which a civilization stands or falls. If indifference caused the lack of attention, this bodes ill not just for the unborn but for the basis of the U.S. democracy. A people that stands idle while more than a million babies are aborted annually and cannot own up to that fact, a people that is not scandalized by the fact that 90 percent of babies with prenatal diagnoses of Down Syndrome are aborted (eugenics in everything but name), according to a May 2007 article in the New York Times, is a people that has forgotten the words of their forefathers: “that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Truly, the rights to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness are empty without the right to life.

Many might say that we pro-lifers do not care about the mother or what happens to the babies once they are born or that we should be “whole-life;” caring as much for the unborn as for the casualties of war or natural disasters. Of course these are extremely important issues as well, to which time and attention must be devoted, but we think that abortion is the moral issue of our time. Indeed, this coming semester MIT Pro-Life will share resources that the Institute has to offer for pregnant students. Through our events and our weekly Friday table in the Infinite Corridor, we hope to engage people in a civil discussion about life issues, to acknowledge the reality of abortion in this country, and to work towards ending abortion in the foreseeable future.

— Jose A. Correa G