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More family firms add philanthropy to business plans

Eliot Orton traces the origins of the Vermont Country Stores’ interest in philanthropy to neighbors sitting around the potbellied stove at his grandfather’s small store in the Green Mountains and jawboning about things that needed to be done in the community.

“People in Vermont have a very strong sense of civic duty,” said Orton, 39, the chairman of the family-owned business. “It’s deep in their bones. Vermont still has town meetings, and my grandfather very much shared that sensibility of looking after neighbors and caring for the place where you live and work.”

As much as was permitted by the limited resources of a small general store in tiny Weston, Vt., in the 1940s and ‘50s, Vrest Orton donated time and money to local charitable causes. Today that store has become a 15,000-square-foot tourist destination, and Vermont Country Stores has a thriving national Internet and mail-order business and another retail location that together bring in $100 million in average annual sales.

Growth in business has meant a growth in philanthropy. Eliot Orton estimates that the company dedicates 10 percent of its annual profit, and hundreds of hours of time volunteered by many, if not most, of its 500 employees to a variety of charities, including volunteer fire departments, food pantries and international causes like Habitat for Humanity.

—Charles Paikert, The New York Times

Ukraine’s ultranationalists

KIEV, Ukraine — The last time Oleg Tyagnibok was a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, his colleagues kicked him out over a fiery speech in which he described how Ukrainians, during World War II, bravely fought Muscovites, Germans, Jews “and other scum,” and then used slurs to refer to the “Jewish-Russian mafia, which rules in Ukraine.”

Eight years later, Tyagnibok is preparing to return to Parliament, not as a lone member of a broader coalition, as he was when he was ejected, but as the leader of Svoboda, the ultranationalist, right-wing party that will control 38 of 450 seats, or about 8.5 percent of the national legislature.

Svoboda’s surprising show of strength in the Oct. 29 election — polls had predicted that the party would fail to meet the 5 percent threshold to enter Parliament — has stirred alarm, including warnings from Israel about the rise of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic at the heart of what the historian Timothy Snyder called the “bloodlands.”

—David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times

Societe generale profit plunged in third quarter

PARIS - Societe Generale, the big French bank, said Thursday that its third-quarter profit plunged as it booked large one-time charges.

The bank reported that net income fell 86 percent, to 85 million euros ($108 million), from 622 million euros in the period a year earlier, well below the 139 million euros analysts surveyed by Reuters had been expecting. The bank said net revenue declined 17 percent, to 5.4 billion euros.

Societe Generale, based in Paris, said its bottom line was hurt by one-time charges that included a cost of 389 million euros for revaluing its own debt. It also wrote down goodwill and had losses on the sale of assets in Greece and the United States. Excluding those items, the bank said underlying net income was 856 million euros.

—David Jolly, The New York Times