State of the Union opens the door for increased collaboration

President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address covered many familiar priorities and re-emphasized messages that have been central to his administration. But this year’s address also contained something new. WRAG President Tamara Copeland explains:

I heard something last night in the State of the Union address that I hadn’t heard in President Obama’s previous addresses – a direct reference to philanthropy. In fact, the President mentioned it not once, but twice. He called for “a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high quality pre-K that they need.” Then, a few minutes later, my ears perked up again when he said, “And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.”

As President Obama envisions a country in which opportunity flourishes, he sees philanthropy as playing a major role. WRAG is eager to work with foundations and corporations to strengthen their work on the president’s priorities. Let’s get started.

- You can read the full transcript of the address via the Washington Post. (WaPo, 1/29)

- The Post fact-checked the SOTU address and rebuttal. Of note for our community, they pushed back a bit on points about inequality, healthcare, and the workforce. (WaPo, 1/29)

- Check out Vice President Biden’s reaction to…well, who knows, but the reaction is hilarious. I think it’s safe to assume that the veep finally found Waldo hiding in the House gallery.

HOMELESSNESS | D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells held a press conference at a Maryland motel that is being used to shelter some of the District’s homeless population. Wells called out the Gray administration for not having enough capacity in the city. Gray’s camp responded by claiming that the press conference was a stunt.

And I responded by saying that both leaders should have the integrity to actually address the severe problem that is directly and immediately affecting real people. As far as facts go (WaPo, 1/29):

Wells provided figures compiled by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the city contractor that manages homeless family placements, showing 436 families with a combined 849 children staying in hotels Monday. Two of the hotels, he said, are located outside the District.

FOOD | For the first time ever, working-age Americans represent the majority of SNAP recipients. In the past, children and older-adults fit that category. This significant shift is attributed to the bad economy, low wages, and the increasing opportunity gap. (WTOP, 1/29)

Related: Food Stamp Cuts, Cold Weather Put Extra Strain On Food Pantries (NPR, 1/28)

GIVING | And the award for worst charity goes to… (Chronicle, 1/29)

WORKFORCE | Perhaps not surprisingly, “hot dog vendor” does not top the list of fastest-growing jobs this decade. That distinction belongs to a number of positions in the healthcare industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Atlantic, 1/29)

EVENT | Funders and community stakeholders are invited to join The Community Foundation for Prince George’s County for its Connecting Youth to Opportunity tours. The next tour, on February 5th, focuses on early childhood. [More info.]

We can expect some great commercials during the Super Bowl. In the meantime – and I know this will sound weird – check out Delta’s new flight safety video. The theme is the 1980s and it’s hilariously nostalgic. I cheered when Teddy Ruxpin made an appearance, and the cameo at the very end is just amazing.

A peek into The Institute for Corporate Responsibility

Late last week, WRAG welcomed the first class of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR leaders from our region and far beyond gathered for the first two-day session of the year-long program – and we’re excited to say that things couldn’t have gone better.

In today’s Daily, The Advisory Board Company’s Graham McLaughlin reflects on the first session and how he already feels better equipped as a CSR practitioner (Daily, 1/28):

Rarely do we as CSR leaders get to engage in nuanced, thoughtful discussions on how to build a vision and execution strategy that will yield the greatest social and business impact. Due to lead faculty member Tim McClimon’s brilliant facilitation, high quality speakers who were told to be provocative in order to push our thinking in different areas, and the expertise of fellow participants, we were able to have these types of discussions from basically 9-5 each day, leading me to have some immediate ideas for improving our “Community Impact” program as well as ways I need to alter my thinking to position us to drive greater impact in the medium-long term as well.

Related: Coinciding with the Institute’s kickoff, the Washington Business Journal interviewed WRAG’s Katy Moore about the history and vision for the project. It’s behind a paywall, but worth a read if you have access. (WBJ, 1/24)

Photos: Check out WRAG’s Facebook album of the Institute’s first session.

EDUCATION | The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a new Kids Count snapshot, and the data is discouraging – particularly for our region. The report looks at reading proficiency by income level and finds that D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have some of the largest gaps in the entire nation between income levels (WaPo, 1/28):

In Virginia, only 21 percent of fourth graders from low-income families were considered proficient in reading, compared to 56 percent of fourth graders from higher-income families. And in Maryland, 24 percent of fourth graders from low-income families were proficient, compared to 58 percent from higher income families.

The District, an entirely urban jurisdiction, had the nation’s largest gap with only a 13 percent proficiency rate for children from low-income families compared to 61 percent for those from wealthier families.

Related: Read the Casey Foundation’s full briefing here. (AECF, 1/28)

COMMUNITY | Cartoonist Herbert Block, the namesake and founder of The Herb Block Foundation, is the subject of a new documentary airing on HBO. Time reviews the documentary and discusses Block’s life and influence on American politics. (Time, 1/27)

HOMELESSNESS | The Urban Institute is drawing attention to an especially unfortunate trend in homelessness. As organizations like Urban try to collect data on the homeless population, homeless LGBTQ youth are frequently missed in counts because they actively try to avoid detection. (Atlantic, 1/28)

WORKFORCE | The Workers Who Will Benefit from Raising DC’s Minimum Wage (DCFPI, 1/27)

TRANSIT | When Mayor Gray said that the H Street streetcars would start public operation “in January, not later than early February,” he forgot to mention a year. Smart man, because the opening date is still a ways off. (WJLA, 1/28)

It would be hard to overstate the impact that Pete Seeger had on both American music and the culture of democratic participation. It’s sad to lose him, but he lived a long and full life. Here’s a track he recorded two years ago, at the ripe young age of 92, for an Amnesty International benefit album – a cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young.

For The Advisory Board Company’s Graham McLaughlin, the Institute for CSR offers immediate benefits

Late last week, WRAG held the first class for the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University. CSR leaders from our region and far beyond gathered for the first two-day session of the year-long program. Below, The Advisory Board Company’s Graham McLaughlin, a member of the inaugural class, shares thoughts on the first session.

By Graham McLaughlin
Director, Community Impact
The Advisory Board Company

With an incredible slate of speakers, faculty members who could teach both the practicalities of the work as well as big picture concepts, and participants from well-known global and regional companies, the bounce in my step as I walked to Johns Hopkins for day one of the inaugural Institute for CSR wasn’t just from the two cups of coffee I’d needed to fortify myself against the cold.

When I learned during introductions that our classroom had previously been the headquarters of the East German embassy, and therefore, due to their desire for secrecy cell phone signals would be unavailable, my appreciation for this opportunity to now truly take a step back from the day-to-day grew even further.

Below, I’ve listed a few takeaways from our (uninterrupted) focus on “The Business of CSR,” the first of four two-day sessions across the year, but my main takeaway from the session, and why I’m so grateful to have participated, was that while we may not have been able to share cell phone transmissions with the outside world, the openness by my fellow participants to share both their successes and challenges was incredibly valuable.

Rarely do we as CSR leaders get to engage in nuanced, thoughtful discussions on how to build a vision and execution strategy that will yield the greatest social and business impact.  Due to lead faculty member Tim McClimon’s brilliant facilitation, high quality speakers who were told to be provocative in order to push our thinking in different areas, and the expertise of fellow participants, we were able to have these types of discussions from basically 9-5 each day, leading me to have some immediate ideas for improving our “Community Impact” program as well as ways I need to alter my thinking to position us to drive greater impact in the medium-long term as well.  Below are three highlights relevant for any program:

Where There is No Vision, the People Perish

This biblical quote is courtesy of guest speaker Michael Smith, Director of the Office of Social Innovation, as he pushed our group to “be fearless.”  Thinking big and outside of normal paradigms is necessary to drive transformative change in society and your business.  It’s also critical to have a clear vision of what success looks like, what it takes to accomplish, and why your firm is uniquely positioned to execute on this transformative vision.

No Man is an Island…and the Same Principle Holds for CSR

CSR must be integrated into the business, and we as leaders are the ones who must make that happen.  Guest speaker Dane Smith, head of FSG’s North American consulting practice, emphasized shared value as a way to scale social impact and business outcomes.  Jon Spector, President of the Conference Board, outlined how to make the business case for CSR initiatives to your CEO.  In both cases, a critical point was that CSR is not a siloed division in the company, but rather an ethos imbued into the decision-making of the organization.

Multiply your Impact through Partnership

Depending on the size and reach of your company, you may be able to create a program that yields significant impact without deep and varied partnerships.  However, to fulfill your total potential impact, your company must become a force multiplier for good, not just partnering with organizations. As guest speaker Jennifer Kim Field from the UN Foundation put it, your company must “curate” these partnerships so they go from transactional to transformational.  Creating these types of partnerships requires discipline- in selecting partners, in communicating effectively, and in measuring impact- but yields significant reward for the extra work.

In addition to The Advisory Board Company, the Institute’s inaugural class includes representatives from the BP Foundation, Freddie Mac, the Freddie Mac Foundation, the International Monetary Fund, Washington Gas, Bank of America, Pepco, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, Hilton Worldwide, IBM Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Kaiser Permanente, Lincoln Financial Group, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Deloitte, and the Verizon Foundation.

Huge progress in Virginia’s plan to end homelessness

Three years ago, Virginia began a statewide push to end homelessness. In the past 100 days, advocates have helped more than 500 families move from homelessness to permanent housing. These efforts are being recognized as game-changers. Can we replicate them in D.C. and Maryland? (WaPo, 1/28):

Under the leadership of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 33 social service organizations in Virginia spent three years studying the best ways to end homelessness. Their research left them focused on rapid rehousing, a strategy of providing short-term rent subsidies in the belief that once a family has a roof over its heads, it can tackle the problems that led it to lose housing in the first place.

Related: The New York Times ran a big feature on the housing market, and it uses one home in Prince George’s County to tell the story. (NYT, 1/26)

WORKFORCE | The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released workforce demographic projections for the next ten years. And when I say ten, I actually mean eight because 2022 is only eight years away. Oh my goodness. Anyway, the general trend is for the workforce share to rise in the 55+ age group and fall for younger groups. (BLS, 1/24)

WRAG | We’re hiring! Are you a creative thinker, problem solver, and dynamic networker? If so, WRAG’s new Community Connections Manager position might be the perfect fit! Read more about this exciting new opportunity here!

POLITICS/POVERTY | Opinion: Tomorrow night’s State of the Union Address is expected to touch on wealth inequality in the United States. In order for his address to be effective, one advocate says that the president must focus on education opportunity. But he’s worried that “the president will slip from an accurate diagnosis to unproven and ineffectual treatments.” (WaPo, 1/27)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Earlier this month, a handful of foundations pledged $330 million to help save Detroit from financial ruin. In an op-ed, William Schambra says that this pledge could be Pandora’s box (Chronicle, 1/27):

The extraordinary “give” is the commitment of private funds to sustain public pensions, the sort of grant making that foundations have resolutely refused to do in the past. This may come back to haunt them, with so many other American cities facing financial difficulties every bit as daunting as Detroit’s.

COMMUNITY | It always stinks when you want to buy eighteen boxes of Thin Mints, but you only have four bucks in cash. This year, Capital One is supporting Girl Scout troops in Virginia and D.C. by giving them the Spark Pay app so that they can accept credit cards. Hallelujah! (WaPo, 1/27)

Last year, I nearly chopped off my finger doing a manly construction project (or building a headboard). Walking to the emergency room, I found a Girl Scout troop and stopped to buy a ton of cookies. Bad move. Literally every person I encountered at the hospital asked if I was planning to share. I just pretended that I was in shock and couldn’t understand them.

Did you all watch the Grammys last night? Me neither! But I did watch this video of a 2 year-old skateboarding. His parents are nincompoops for not putting a helmet on him, but he doesn’t really look like he needs one.

And in the realm of more serious things…just kidding, it’s Monday. Let’s keep it light. Here’s Bad Lip Reading’s latest offering – More NFL. Make sure you wait for the dance at the end!

What you should expect from WRAG in 2014

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Yesterday, as I sat at home looking at the beautiful snowfall, I had to think about a problem caused by the weather. This Thursday is the opening session for our new Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility. Many of the registrants are here in region, but others are flying in. Should we postpone? As I thought through this situation, I was reminded of how far we’ve come on this effort and how much exciting work is planned for 2014.

In just two years, the Institute has grown from an idea to a full academic program. It has benefited from the strategic thinking of philanthropic leaders in and outside of our region. And, it gained momentum as each new speaker was named and strength with each new registrant.

If all goes well with the weather tomorrow, the Institute’s inaugural cohort will come into the classroom at Johns Hopkins University and begin working toward their certificates in corporate social responsibility. What is our hope? That the Institute will make them even more effective stewards of their corporations’ investments in their communities. And that ultimately, their philanthropy, be it in volunteer hours or in dollars, will improve their communities.

That’s WRAG’s mission: to increase the effectiveness of philanthropy. That’s what we do, and the Institute is just one example of how we plan to do that in 2014.

This year, we will elevate the issue of our region’s food system. We want you to know what “local” means when you hear that something is “locally grown.” We want to let you know how local food gets from farms to tables, and how philanthropy can better ensure healthy food equity in our region. We are going to encourage grantmakers to come together more under the WRAG umbrella on the issues that you care about because we know that your resources are maximized when you share your knowledge and experiences and when you align your giving.

And, this year, we will launch our new website. It will be home base for philanthropy and for those who care about philanthropy in our region. It will be more vibrant, more interactive, and more current.

I’m excited about this new year and about the body of work that will unfold. Keep reading The Daily WRAG and following us on Twitter at @WRAGtweets and at @WRAGPrez. Meet with your colleagues and work on what you feel passionate about. Learn from thought leaders at our Brightest Minds series and at the annual meeting. And do what you have always done. Make a difference. It’s that simple.

I believe strongly in Margaret Mead’s words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Are educators giving the wrong message about college to low-income students?

It’s common knowledge that more education leads to more opportunity in life. As such, college access is a key priority for philanthropy and the government. Just today, President Obama announced a summit on college completion rates. But what if, in trying to convince low-income students of the importance of higher education, we’re discussing it wrong?

In The Atlantic, a teacher reflects on the perspectives of low- and higher-income students about school. The differences are stark, and the less privileged students focus on college as an economic ladder. That’s a significant problem, according to the teacher (Atlantic, 1/16):

When administrators, counselors, and teachers repeat again and again that a college degree will alleviate economic hardship, they don’t mean to suggest that there is no other point to higher education. Yet by focusing on this one potential benefit, educators risk distracting them from the others, emphasizing the value of the fruits of their academic labor and skipping past the importance of the labor itself. The message is that intellectual curiosity plays second fiddle to financial security.

FOOD | WRAG’s Washington Regional Convergence Partnership released a new report today on food hubs. The report, which grew out of last fall’s Food Hubs 101 event, features key facts and figures about local food hubs, recounts highlights from the event, and explores presentations from the event’s guests and panels. Check it out here. (Daily, 1/16)

- Potentially game-changing news: a professor at USC has developed a 3D printer that can build an entire house in just 24 hours. It sounds too good to be true, but the concept video is quite convincing. (NDTV, 1/13)

The applications of 3D printing are increasing at an incredible (and sometime scary) rate. It’s hard not to get excited about the possibilities, like printing an Aston Martin Vanquish so that I can finally be just like James Bond.

- McDuffie Bill Would Dedicate Surplus Funds to Affordable Housing (CP, 1/15)

CWBI | Yesterday, we posted an FAQ about the Community Wealth Building Initiative. One of the initial business lines identified for the project is local green stormwater management.

Good news on that front. Today we learned that, the EPA, State of Maryland, and Prince George’s County announced a $100 million investment in community-based stormwater management. This sort of investment suggests that there is a strong foundation being laid that the CWBI might be able to build on.

PHILANTHROPY | In the choppy wake of the recession, many charities are having to rethink anti-poverty efforts. This article is behind a paywall, but here’s a snippet if you don’t subscribe (Chronicle, 1/16):

The slow recovery from [the economic] crisis, which peaked in 2007 and 2008, coincided with a political climate that has made it difficult to win increased social spending—both in Washington, where a deficit-cutting Congress faces intense pressure from Republicans for steep budget cuts, and in many state capitals, where the tough economy has taken a toll on state coffers.

Some advocates have had to give up on deadlines that once seemed realistic.

LOCAL | If you’re walking down the street and you smell something funny, don’t jump to conclusions! Sure, it might have been the person walking in front of you, but it’s more likely the result of the thousands – yes, thousands – of leaks in the District’s natural gas pipe system. Some of the leaks are at literally explosive levels. (WaPo, 1/16)

Related: The Post mapped out the leaks. It looks like we’ll be safe if we just hang out on the Mall, at Hains Point, or in Rock Creek Park. (WaPo, 1/16)

WORKFORCE | Yesterday, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray signed a minimum wage hike into law. Here’s what it will mean for the city’s residents. (CP, 1/15)

Leaving the comforts of home is the worst part of most mornings. And that’s true not just for people, but for animals, too. See this husky’s refusal to go to the kennel for proof. And check out the hilarious gallery of canine photobombers below the video.

Documenting emerging food hubs in the region, equity in the food system

By Lindsay Smith
Consultant, Washington Regional Convergence Partnership (a project of WRAG)

Last October, nearly 70 funders, government representatives, policy experts, and advocates from around the region gathered to learn about food hubs. The event – Food Hubs 101 – took a broad look at what food hubs are, how they’re performing for the farmers and diverse consumers they serve, where new food hubs are emerging in the region, and how philanthropy can support the development of these entities.

Today, we’re excited to release a report that grew out of the event. It features key facts and figures about local food hubs, recounts highlights from the day, and explores presentations from the event’s guests and panels. The report is supplemented with an appendix containing full presentations.

One of the key panels documented in the report discussed a critical topic: how food hubs can be leveraged to improve equity not just for their small and medium-sized farmer members, but also for low-income communities.

Over the course of this year, we’ll share more information about the components of the food system, like food hubs, and how the resources of various stakeholders can be leveraged to build a regional food system that is more diverse and inclusive. Stay tuned!

Food Hubs 101: A Learning Event & Stakeholder Convening in Greater Washington
Food Hubs 101 Appendix

The Washington Regional Convergence Partnership (WRCP) is a group of grantmakers committed to building a more equitable food system in the region based out of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG). For more information about the WRCP, please contact Lindsay Smith.

Carmen James Lane to depart the Meyer Foundation

The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation has announced that Carmen James Lane, who serves as a senior program officer and has been with the foundation for 15 years, will join the Greater New Orleans Foundation as vice president for programs in February.

In the announcement, Meyer Foundation president Julie Rogers said:

Carmen has been an anchor of our program staff and the local grantmaking community, and we’re very sorry to be losing her…At the same time, we take pride in her success and are delighted that another community and its youth will benefit from Carmen’s expertise, her passion for helping young people advance, and her nurturing spirit.”

Julie’s remarks are spot on. Carmen has been a integral part of the WRAG community. The former Children, Youth & Families and Public Education working groups accomplished a tremendous amount under her leadership. We’re sad that she’s leaving our community, but the Greater New Orleans Foundation made a wise choice. Congratulations and best of luck, Carmen!

CWBI | What’s kwi-bee? you might be asking yourself. It’s gibberish! But CWBI is the Community Wealth Building Initiative. Last fall, we reported that two projects had been identified to lead the initiative forward. Today, we published an FAQ about the initiative’s history, progress, and next steps. Check it out here. (Daily, 1/15)

ARTS | The National Symphony and the Washington Performing Arts Society are both getting out into the community. Through new programs, the two organizations are finding creative ways to engage  audiences who might not otherwise see classical music performances. Very cool! (WaPo, 1/15)

HEALTH | Does poverty cause obesity? The research is inconclusive, but there’s at least a link between the two (Atlantic, 1/15):

[P]overty might make some people obese, but obesity definitely makes many people poorer, through two broad channels: (a) it reduces take-home pay, particularly for women; and (b) it’s related to health conditions that reduce discretionary income, too.

FOOD | What Really Happens When You Sign Up for Food Stamps (Atlantic, 1/15)

COMMUNITY | The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is seeking nominations for its Impact Awards!

- More than three-quarters of the nation’s kindergartners are now enrolled in full day programs. (USA, 1/15) More school and no strawberry milk?! I wouldn’t want to be a kindergartner today. The 80s were so much better!

- Congress seems set to increase funding for the Head Start early-education program by a billion dollars. (Chronicle, 1/15)

A million dollars, while certainly enough for me to buy plenty of delicious white pizza from Pines of Rome in Bethesda, isn’t what it used to be. So when are we going to stop saying, “I feel like a million bucks” or that someone has a “million dollar smile”? We could say billion now, but maybe we should just skip to trillion.

Did anyone see the fog last night? I went up to my roof at 2:00am and the visibility wasn’t more than a few hundred yards. Streetlights peaked through and created a beautifully surreal effect.

Also, The Boss dropped a new album this week called High Hopes. The title track is excellent, the rest middle of the road. Anyway, he was on Jimmy Fallon last night to promoted the album, and the two collaborated on a ballad about Chris Christie. It’s a little off color, but it’s also really funny.

New research demonstrates how poverty makes people sick

This won’t come as a surprise to most of you, but a new research paper finds that poverty has severe ramifications for health. With unreasonably tight budgets, low-income individuals are forced to compromise on things like healthy eating. Or eating anything at all. This sets off a chain reaction that can end in the hospital, or worse.

What’s especially interesting about this research is that it proves a link between money and health while also debunking an unfortunate misconception that low-income individuals are broadly unhealthy (Atlantic, 1/14):

[I]sn’t it possible that poorer people just tend to be less healthy in general? Sure. That’s why the researchers also looked at when people go the hospital for appendicitis, which doesn’t depend on diet. So there shouldn’t be any end-of-the-month increase for low-income people if tight budgets are the problem. There wasn’t. As you can see above, appendicitis cases were flat across the month for both high (blue) and low (purple) income people.

In other words, poorer people don’t need more care at the end of the month for every kind of condition. Just the ones that get worse when you don’t have enough to eat.

- If you haven’t seen it, check out the documentary series Unnatural Causes. It digs deep into the connection between health and wealth, covering everything from food to geography.

- And, poverty isn’t just about money, according to a new book from economist Tim Harford. It’s also about how individuals perceive themselves, and how they are perceived by others. Harford talked with NPR about his research. (NPR, 1/14)

HOUSING | It’s been about six years since the housing crisis began, but its effects are still getting worse in Maryland. Foreclosures there have skyrocketed, increasing more than 250 percent and landing the state at the number three spot on the list of highest foreclosure rates in the nation. (WAMU, 1/10)

- In order for the Affordable Care Act to be economically viable – and ultimately successful – young adults need to represent a significant portion of health exchange consumers. At this point, the numbers are significantly lower than projected. (WaPo, 1/14)

- Opinion: Maryland’s health exchange has had one of the worst launches in the nation. The Post’s Petula Dvorak calls it “a scandal of incompetence” and goes so far as to use the hilarious phrase “epic bungling.” (WaPo, 1/14)

WORKFORCE | Elevation DC writes about the HOPE Project, which helps bring District residents out of poverty by training them for information technology jobs. (EDC, 1/14)

- A former interim D.C. state superintendent for education (IDCSSFE) has been named to a new DCPS post where she will oversee a plan to improve traditional middle and high schools. (WaPo, 1/14)

- With More Choices And New Lottery, D.C. Parents Become School Shoppers (WAMU, 1/13)

LOCAL | Fate of Virginia’s Contested Bi-County Parkway Now Lies With McAuliffe (WAMU, 1/14)

TRANSIT | As the H Street streetcar line gets ready to roll, Aaron Wiener points out that traffic will be a long-term problem for efficiency. Since there’s no dedicated lane, the streetcars are subject to traffic jams and double-parked cars. (CP, 1/14)

To this, I say prepare for ramming speed!

BREAKING NEWS | Edward Snowden promised that more secrets would be coming, and one of Iran’s news agencies has dropped a bom…well, let’s avoid that phrase. They’ve revealed a huge secret. Are you sitting? It turns out that the United States is secretly run by Nazi aliens! (WaPo, 1/13)

So, either Iran’s news agency has a fiction department or Snowden managed to sneak the script of John Carpenter’s They Live into his data dump.

The only thing worse than alien Nazis are Illinois Nazis. I hate Illinois Nazis. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that everybody needs somebody to love!

Also, here’s a gif that was posted with the title “Life.” Very clever. And bleak!

Imagine deducting $2.15 an hour from the federal minimum wage

In recent months, many of the jurisdictions in our region have made great progress toward increasing the minimum wage. But not all of them (ahem, Northern Virginia). As Brookings points out, the suburbanization of poverty is a key factor in the minimum wage debate. One in four suburban residents has a minimum wage job.

A sure-fire way to address the disparities in minimum wage rates would be to raise the federal standard so that all jurisdictions are lifted. But at this point in history, the federal rate is effectively worse than it was when it was envisioned (Brookings, 1/13):

This is timely, if not overdue, as today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is effectively $2.15 lower than it was in 1964, after adjusting for inflation…

More than that, however, the profile of minimum wage workers has shifted dramatically in the last few decades. Rather than teens working after school or summer jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the typical worker likely to be affected by a raise in the minimum wage today is a woman in her 30s working full-time, with a family to support.

Related: Author Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote a book about trying to live on the minimum wage, reflects on the gender inequality of poverty. (Atlantic, 1/13)

- Lately, educators have emphasized development around STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) categories as these are the skill areas needed to thrive in our predicted near-future economy. An article in The Atlantic suggests that that the acronym is one letter short, however.

By adding an H, for haberdasher, we can ensure that our society has enough men’s outfitters. But the article doesn’t care about haberdashers. Instead, it wants STEM to add arts to the mix – and the case is a good one. (Atlantic, 1/13) We could finally teach our kids MEATS!

- A new brief from the Education Commission of the States finds that, despite budget woes, states are making big investments in pre-K education. In our region, the numbers are mixed.

The District is recognized as being a leader in pre-K spending, and it has increased its spending 14% since the last school year. Maryland and Virginia, on the other hand, were effectively flat between years. (ECS, 1/13)

COMMUNITY | Opinion: Last week, the Post’s Kathleen Parker wrote a piece about how semantics influence the discourse around inequality. The Hitachi Foundation’s Mark Popovich did not like her article and responded with a his own thoughts. (HuffPo, 1/13)

HOMELESSNESS | As the Silver Tsunami washes over the homeless population, problems associated with age are magnified by “stress and poor living conditions.” (HuffPo, 1/10)

NONPROFITS | In 2010, Congress instituted new reporting requirements for nonprofits. Under the new rules, 550,000 groups have lost their exempt status. But here’s the kicker: 9,000 of those cuts were due to mistakes made by the IRS. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

In a report to Congress last year, the agency noted the mistakes. And since then…well, nothing has changed. (Chronicle, 1/10)

TRANSIT | Hell must have frozen over during the Polar Vortex, because Metro seems to be easing up on major track work this year! (WaPo, 1/13)

You know it’s a slow news day when DC Restaurant Week and the decades-old feud between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen are the top news stories.

Most of you would have never guessed it, but I’m a big movie nerd. So, I watched the Golden Globes last night. I’m not sure why I feel the need to justify that. Anyway, I thought the awards were well-chosen, the hosts were funny, and Jacqueline Bisset’s brain might have been on another planet. The best part of the show, however, was a commercial for the new Muppets movie. It was hilarious in the way that it brilliantly spoofed social media. 


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