Nonprofit Suffers from Land’s End Controversy

(Pictured above: Gloria Steinem)

Land’s End – the Wisconsin-based clothing retailer – provoked controversy recently when it published an interview with renowned feminist writer and icon Gloria Steinem in its spring catalog.

As part of the company’s “Legend Series,” Land’s End intended to underscore the contributions Steinem has made to the advancement of women’s equality. Instead, it attracted the ire of anti-choice advocates who pointed out Steinem’s support for abortion rights.

“Our goal was to feature individuals with different interests and backgrounds that have made a difference for our new Legends Series, not to take any political or religious stance,” a statement from Lands End read.

In response to the interview, some religious schools have announced that they will cease purchasing uniforms and other goods from the company. Anti-choice advocates are calling for a boycott.

The interview was shaped around an appeal for shoppers to donate to the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition (ERA) – an organization whose aim is to pass a new amendment to the United States Constitution to explicitly “prohibit discrimination against girls and women on the basis of sex.” The option to give to the organization now appears gone in the wake of the interview’s backlash.

Unfortunately, the opportunity for a thoughtful and engaging dialogue about the advancement of women’s equality was cut down by the first sign of controversy. Doubtlessly, the ERA Coalition would have stood to benefit from Legend Series initiative. Instead, a worthwhile organization has witnessed another potential revenue stream dry up.

Who Will Buy the Next Supreme Court?

Antonin Scalia – the outspoken supreme court justice and leader of the conservative movement – was found dead on Saturday, February 13. He was 79.

The justice was participating in a private weekend hunting party at a ranch located in the Big Bend region of Texas. Chief Justice John Roberts remarked on his passing:

On behalf of the court and retired justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the court and the country he so loyally served.

Scalia – a polarizing figure known for his passionately written court opinions – received tributes from individuals across the political spectrum. Bernie Sanders remarked that though he held drastically different opinions than those of the late jurist, he nonetheless respected his intelligence and passion. Ted Cruz extolled Scalia as a hero, and argued that his predecessor should not be chosen until after the next presidential election.

Cruz’ opinion is common to conservative lawmakers, who have little desire to confirm an Obama appointee. By stonewalling the president, however, the Senate risks allowing bitter partisan politics interfere with the most basic functioning of the government’s democratic processes.

In the wake of Scalia’s death, one fact is certain. Roe vs. Wade – the court ruling that upholds women’s right to abortion – is safe. The court will now most certainly rule against a case currently under consideration that could have rolled back federal protections for procreative rights. Affirmative Action, however, faces the same calculus it did before – with a 3-3 split between the court’s liberals and conservatives ultimately decided by Justice Kennedy, the swing-vote.

The long-term implications, however, are huge. There is a precedent for split courts, where eight justices split down the line, leaving a case effectively undecided. In this event, the ruling of the lower court is upheld. This could benefit a number of special interests, parties to cases not yet before the supreme court.

With the presidential primaries far from concluded, Scalia’s passing will also likely push candidates to fundraise around the supreme court. While presidential candidates invoke the prospect of the opposing side controlling the court, special interests could very well start pouring even more money into their respective candidates’ campaigns in order to secure future legal affairs. In a sense, a number of parties will begin efforts to buy the next supreme court.

As the climate of the eight-justice supreme court takes shape, and more developments emerge with regard to the fundraising that transpires due to the court’s open spot, Key Elements Group LLC will be there to provide analysis.

#BeyGOOD: Beyonce to Aid Flint

After immense praise following her Super Bowl 50 half-time performance (as well as criticism from pro-police groups), Beyoncé made news with a fundraising announcement; the pop singer will campaign on behalf of children affected by the Flint water crisis.

An extension of her #BeyGOOD Foundation, the campaign will raise money for the United Way’s Flint Child Health and Development Fund, which provides for the nutrition of city’s youth besieged by the ongoing water contamination jeopardizing the welfare of city residents. Fundraising will also go toward Community Foundation of Greater Flint, which underwrites educational needs and health care costs for children.

The crisis began in 2014 when Flint city officials decided to switch the town’s water supply to the Flint River – a notoriously toxic body of water widely known to contain dangerous chemicals. The water is so corrosive that it eroded the city’s lead pipes, spilling the substance into the water supply and poisoning inhabitants.

Scores of other celebrities have stepped up to help Flint: the band Pearl Jam has donated $125,000; Meek Mill contributed 60,000 bottles of water; Big Sean has announced a $100,000 gift; The Game has pledged $1 million; Jimmy Fallon has committed to donating $10,000.

Working collectively, rapper Eminem, hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa, Seadn “Diddy” Combs, and actor Mark Wahlberg amassed 1 million bottles of water for Flint.

Beyoncé’s entry into the field is just the pop star’s latest philanthropic gesture. Over the years, she has contributed $7 million to fight homelessness in her hometown of Houston, Texas, and recently bailed out Black Lives Matter protesters in Baltimore.

While the financial contributions of Beyoncé and other stars both help ease the deleterious effects of the crisis and raise awareness of the issue, Flint still has a long way to go before regaining water normalcy. The situation could take as much as $1.5 billion to fix.

Ferguson Fails in HUD Grant Bid

(Ferguson, Missouri)

Ferguson, Missouri was not selected as a recipient for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding. The town – which became a national symbol for racial and economic inequality in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown – factored in as one of the 40 finalists for the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC). The grants offered by the program are designed to fund initiatives to make communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Missouri officials sought $38.3 million to “improve the economic resilience of citizens in North St. Louis County, so they are able to build assets and withstand the shocks and stressors that will inevitably come.” The funding represented an opportunity to implement infrastructure improvements in the economically depressed area.

The 12 grant recipients include: the state of California ($70.4 million), the state of Connecticut ($54.3 million), New Orleans ($141.3 million), the state of Iowa ($96.9 million), Minot, North Dakota ($74.3 million), the state of Louisiana ($92.6 million), Shelby County, Tennessee ($60.4 million), the state of New Jersey ($15 million), Springfield, Massachusetts ($17.1 million), the state of New York ($35.8 million), the state of Tennessee ($44.5 million), and the state of Virginia ($120.6 million).

The cash-strapped city recently made news as the Department of Justice and the Ferguson Police Department reached a deal on a number of reforms aimed to bolster community trust in the police, improve accountability, and promote diversity in the department’s corps of officers. Up until now, the city had only a few African-American police officers on its more than 50-strong police force. Ferguson’s population is 70 percent black. The deal will require officers to don body cameras and microphones within 180 days, and will mandate that the police force focus on more accurately reflecting the town’s racial makeup in its ranks.

Super Bowl 50: Philanthropist Acts as Lead Host

(Super Bowl 50 will be held in Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco)

Organizers for Super Bowl 50 are not only hoping for a tremendous showdown between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. They also have their sights on marrying philanthropy to the highly popular annual competition in an unprecedented way.

Daniel Lurie – the founder and CEO of Tipping Point Community – was selected to serve as the chairman for the host committee in San Francisco. The leading Bay Area philanthropist has received accolades for his work fighting poverty; his organization screens and funds a number of highly vaunted nonprofits on a yearly basis.

Lurie’s position as chairman of the host committee has him working as the de facto ambassador for the city as it plans the upcoming Super Bowl.

Lurie:

I was a little surprised when I was asked. I thought we should go and find some business CEO, but after thinking about it I really realized the opportunity we had to change the way we think about how we bid on these events… and how we put community first.

The popular philanthropist plans on working with a number of all-star players including Marshawn Lynch, Justin Tuck, and Ronnie Lott in order to make the NFL’s flagship philanthropic effort – the 50 Fund – a success. Lurie hopes to surpass the NFL’s fundraising goal of $13 million. The fund raises money for youth development, providing low-income communities with sports and educational opportunities, as well as environmental measures that connect communities with the natural world.

Recently, however, there have been protests in San Francisco. The increase in media attention has opened up the nation to a number of issues facing the Bay Area, including sky-rocketing rent and seemingly intractable homelessness.

“We’ve had a [homelessness] problem here in the Bay Area for decades,” Lurie said in response to the criticism leveled at the city for accepting the Super Bowl. “This is not a Super Bowl issue, it’s a Bay Area issue… I love this city, and I love the region. I love the growth that we’re seeing, but I also know not everyone is involved in our economy and how great things are going.”

Whatever the criticism, a successful philanthropist running the most success ever 50 Fund may be the positive press that the NFL needs after a year of scandals ranging from domestic violence to concussion-induced brain damage in players.

A Global Response to Zika Virus Begins

(Mosquitos: the chief culprits in the rapid spread of the Zika virus)

On February 1, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency. The announcement came in response to an extraordinary increase in birth defects in Brazil. During 2015, thousands of infants were born with microcephaly – a disorder that causes fetuses to develop abnormally small heads. Though researchers have not been able to conclusively make the connection, the leading hypothesis holds that the Zika virus is likely responsible for the uptick of this rare birth defect.

WHO Director Margaret Chan declared the pattern in Brazil “an extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world.”

The crisis certainly has global dimensions. First discovered in the 1940s in Africa, the virus only made its way to Latin America last May, where it has since rapidly spread to 23 nations. Florida Governor Rick Scott has announced a state of emergency after as many as 12 cases emerged in the state. A pregnant woman in Spain recently became the first European Zika virus case. Specialists believe that up to 1.5 million Brazilians alone may have contracted it.

The issuing of the global health emergency will trigger funding for prevention and mosquito eradication – efforts to contain the spread of the virus, which takes its biggest toll on new borns. Women in many affected areas who have contracted the virus, however, are stuck in a difficult position. Many of the countries hit with the outbreak have strict anti-abortion laws in place, meaning that affected pregnant women may have to bring children to term who have severe, debilitating brain-damage. Microcephaly cannot be detected in fetuses until late in the second-trimester, further complicating the situation of Zika-stricken pregnant women residing in nations with restrictive stances on reproduction issues.

While nations like Brazil are reconsidering strict anti-abortion laws in light of the Zika virus outbreak, others are holding fast to their onerous legal codes. El Salvador – where abortion is illegal – has officially suggested that women simply refrain from getting pregnant until 2018.

Authorities have sought to dispel concerns that the virus poses a risk during the upcoming Olympic games, scheduled to be held in Brazil this summer. Government officials cited the relatively cool month of August and rigorous mosquito eradication efforts underway as reasons why visitors for the games will be safe from contracting the virus. Drawing a link between the Zika virus and international sporting events, however, some specialists have speculated that the virus could have been introduced into the country during the 2014 World Cup. So far, no upsurge in ticket returns has occurred in response to recent events.

Key Elements Group LLC will continue covering the global response to the Zika virus as programs get underway and fundraising initiatives begin in support of affected communities.

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