NFL Hires Popular, History-Making Female Police Chief

(Cathy Lanier poses with Washington D.C. police officers. Photo: Ted Eytan)

A popular police chief is switching jobs this week.

Cathy Lanier – the first ever female police chief of Washington, D.C. – is departing from her role as a public servant and picking up the mantle of head of security for the NFL. She was in charge of D.C. police for 10 years, an incredibly long period of time for a position that – in many cities – often undergoes quick turnover rates.

Her popularity stemmed from a number of factors. The city progressively got safer under her tutelage. Perhaps even more importantly, she gained the trust of D.C. residents through a commitment to community policing.

This style of law and order embeds police officers within communities, ensuring that they become acquainted with the local population while developing and maintaining relationships with community figures. This proactive approach to policing cultivates trust, and has been considered an important strategy for bridging wide gaps between cities and police departments, especially where fissures concerning race, police brutality, and crime have led to historical highs of public distrust.

The NFL’s choice to hire a history-making woman who embodies progressive sensibilities concerning security does seem like a positive step for the scandal-plagued institution.

To reporters, Lanier contextualized her career change:

What’s more important than being responsible for public safety and security than the nation’s capital? Where do you go from here right? When I thought about the NFL, it’s America’s favorite sport and what’s more important than making sure America’s favorite sport is safe?

Keeping sports fans safe certainly contributes to the social good. But it will take the NFL more than the Lanier appointment to fully rehabilitate its image tarnished by obfuscating the medical risks of football, turning a blind eye to domestic violence, and economically damaging local communities through privileged tax designations.

Inspiring: 102-Year-Old Partakes in Clinton Nomination

While the DNC got off to a rough start for Democrats – with supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders offering protests throughout the first day of proceedings – a number of keynote speeches have buoyed the political party as it moves toward the general election. Michelle Obama gave a stunning and legacy-defining speech, with other well-received speeches presented by Bill Clinton (potentially the first-ever “First Gent”), Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders.

The shift in energy stems partly from the over-looked fact that Democrats officially made history last night with the formal nomination of Hillary Clinton, the first-ever woman to top a party’s ticket for the presidency. This milestone is often lost amidst the vitriol and acrimony of this year’s election, but for women still fighting for gender equality it amounts to a massive victory.

No one felt the weight of this moment more, perhaps, than Jerry Emmett, the 102 year-old Arizona state delegate. The Prescott, Arizona native was born before women had the right to vote, and she remembers the first time her mother voted after the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.

Emmett – who founded a fan club for Hillary Clinton in Arizona – was selected by Democratic officials to read off their state’s delegate allotment during the floor roll call at the convention. When it came to the Arizona delegation to cast its votes last night, a smiling Emmett announced: “51 votes for the next president of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Watch the moment below:

The viciousness and inflated rhetoric of today’s partisan politics obscure the great emotional weight behind such social progress. For Emmett – and for women across the country – last night was more than a milestone, it was a product of women’s unflagging commitment to the pursuit of equality.

WNBA Turns 20 in Milestone for Female Athletes

The WNBA has reached a huge milestone this year as the league prepares to enter its 20th season.

For two decades, the WNBA has shown the nation’s young girls that they, too, have the opportunity to show their stuff in paint on some of the nation’s highest profile courts.

There are still more battles to fight for gender equity in sports – especially within the WNBA itself. While the average WNBA salary has improved over the years – it currently hovers around $75,000 – the fact remains that female players are nonetheless paid a smaller share of overall league revenues compared to their male counterparts.

This arbitrary difference corresponds to the lingering gender pay gap that stretches across all industries. The high-profile character of WNBA stars, however, uniquely positions them to act as advocates on this important issue.

As fans look forward to seeing whether or not decorated college star Breanna Stewart – who is making her rookie debut after a string of wild successes with the Connecticut Huskies – can give Diana Taurasi a run for her money as the best WNBA player, we’ll continue to bring you coverage on gender equity in sports.

Nobel Peace Prize: Afghan Women Cyclists Nominated

A trail-blazing group of Afghan women are receiving international recognition for their bravery and commitment to positive social change.

The 40-strong Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team is a truly distinct, one-of-a-kind organization in Afghanistan – a war-torn and impoverished country with deeply conservative gender norms. Among the group’s riders, ten are fully competitive cyclists, touring Asia to participate in keynote competitions across the region.

A group 118 Italian parliament members have voted to nominate the team for a Nobel Peace Prize, citing its members’ work advancing women’s rights in their home country.

What makes cycling – a seemingly non-remarkable athletic exercise in many countries – heroic in their case is the danger it attracts. In a documentary produced by LET Media, one rider discusses the animosity directed toward women who break outside the traditional bounds of Afghan life:

Some people believe women are meant only to stay at home, and all they can do is cook food and do housework. They say a bicycle can destroy a girl’s future. People say a lot of things. If we listened to them we would never leave our houses.

The team’s coach told NPR that the cyclists have been pelted by stones while practicing.

Led by cyclist Zahra Hussaini, the team has grown steadily over the past decade, assisted by the nonprofit organization Mountain2Mountain. The group pursues its mission “to empower women and girls in conflict zones” through supporting the Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team, donating top-of-the-line racing bikes and running ancillary programs such as the Global Solidarity Ride.

LET Media plans to release a feature-length documentary on these brave riders. In a statement to Total Women’s Cycling, the company remarked that

shortly after we began interacting with these women and learning more about them, we realized that this wasn’t just a short documentary to profile the National Team. To do this story justice, it would have to become a feature length film, focused not just on the National Team, but on the brave female cyclists all over Afghanistan who are pushing gender and cultural barriers using the bicycle as a vehicle for freedom of mobility, independence, and social change.

The team’s bravery and hard-work certainly contribute to the Social Good, not only pointing to a brighter future for women in Afghanistan but also offering the inspiration of change-makers pursuing their dreams despite intractable conflict and oppression.

Gender Equity Elusive in College Sports

With March Madness just around the bend, it’s worth returning to an intractable issue facing collegiate athletics: the disparity in opportunity between men and women.

Still – 44 years after the enactment of Title IX – women receive the short straw when it comes to college sports. Each year, men receive $190 million more in athletic scholarships than women. Overall, there are approximately 63,000 fewer participation slots for women in college-level sports. This great difference is in part influenced by the fact that female high school students possess 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play sports than their male counterparts.

As Kelly Wallace points out at CNN, these discrepancies exist regardless of the great feats accomplished by women athletes. Last year, the Princeton women’s basketball team beat the previous most winning college season ever held by the 1970-71 Penn men’s team, winning 30 games and losing zero during the regular season. Combine this with the continued dominance of US women in international tennis and the cultural cache of the highly successful US women’s soccer team, and the fact that institutions (especially those that are publicly funded) are still doing so little to promote and foster women’s athletics is both head-scratching and evidence of a biased system.

The Women’s Sports Foundation – a nonprofit organization – runs a variety of programs aimed at improving the state of gender equity in sports, ranging from wellness programs to get sedentary youth into physical activity to advocacy campaigns to increase the share of women employed by the sports industry. If you are disconcerted at the ongoing disparity in opportunity between men and women in sports (or interested in giving back during this Women’s History Month), consider contributing to this laudable organization.

You can also make a difference by tuning in – the more public support that women’s athletics attract, the harder it will be for detractors to argue for continuing the glaring inequality that currently exists.

Columbus Planned Parenthood Clinic Attacked

In recognition of Women’s History Month, Key Elements Group has covered issues facing women and the nonprofits that fight for greater gender equality.

This past year has seen an upsurge in violence directed toward nonprofit professionals working with and for women, especially those employed by the nonprofit health organization Planned Parenthood. In November of 2015, a gunman stormed one of the nonprofit’s clinics located in Colorado Springs, killing three. In the months of July and August 2015 alone, there were 849 acts of vandalism committed against Planned Parenthood clinics across the United States.

Much of the vitriol directed against the organization  – which provides invaluable health services to underserved women, including cancer screenings – stems from the exaggerated discourse revolving around its services. Though abortion accounts for a small fraction of the organization’s work, antichoice activists have reduced Planned Parenthood to this one particular service. The widely discredited video series released by the Center for Medical Progress (which recently came under investigation in Texas), were catalysts for violent acts directed toward Planned Parenthood. The Colorado gunman cited the heavily edited and doctored video as a primary inspiration for his murders.

Recent non-violent actions by antichoice activists and legislators have also stoked angry sentiment against the organization. As we discussed in a post yesterday, laws across the nation are effectively shutting down nonprofit clinics that provide safe access to abortions.

Governor John Kasich of Ohio recently signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood at the behest of antichoice voices in his home state, and we are already seeing the effects.

A clinic run by the organization in Columbus, Ohio was defaced with the phrase “SATAN DEN OF BABYKILLERS GOD SEE ALLLL (sic) Mark 9:14” written in red lettering. The timing is certainly no coincidence. As the women’s health nonprofit was targeted by lawmakers due to dubious accusations, vigilante action followed course, further endangering the lives of workers who go out on the line for women on a daily basis.

The danger posed to Planned Parenthood and its staff across the country is a reminder of the courage of many nonprofit workers fighting at the margins for greater equality and better lives for the disenfranchised.

Anti-Choice Laws Spur Backchannel Abortions

(Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson)

A haunting trend has emerged in Google search behavior among U.S. citizens, indicating the effects of anti-choice legislation sweeping across the country in recent years.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz discusses an alarming uptick in search queries for alternative means to terminate pregnancies.

The state with the highest search rate for backchannel abortion methods is Mississippi, the state with perhaps the most stringent anti-choice legislation in the books. State lawmakers have passed measures that place onerous requirements on abortion clinics, raising near-insurmountable bureaucratic and financial hurdles that effectively drive them out of operation. The state has one remaining clinic, which could face closure in a case before the supreme court.

Mississippi officials state that the anti-choice law is “medically legitimate health and safety regulation,” which arose from “highly publicized reports of deaths and injuries involving abortion facilities across the country that raised serious doubts as to the safety of women undergoing abortion procedures.”

Research has proven that women are 14 times more likely to die from childbirth.

In the op-ed, Stephens-Davidowitz breaks down the list of search phrases – beginning with seemingly more benign queries including “buy abortion pills online” and “free abortion pills,” and entering decidedly more harrowing territory.

“How to self-abort,” “how to have a miscarriage,” and “how to do a coat hanger abortion” are increasingly common search phrases.

Mississippi is by no means alone. Texas is party to another supreme court case that calls into question the constitutionality of similiar legislation that has shuttered all but a handful of clinics across the state, the second most populous in the nation. Other states have gone after women’s healthcare provides such as Planned Parenthood, which was recently defunded at the sate-level in Ohio through anti-choice legislation signed into law by  Governor John Kasich.

Planned Parenthood has become target number one for anti-choice activists, most evidently in the widely discredited, heavily doctored videos disseminated by the organization Center for Medical Progress, which is now under investigation for its libelous actions.

As nonprofits and fundraisers respond to these threats to women’s healthcare and basic rights, Key Elements Group will provide ongoing coverage.

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.

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.

Planned Parenthood Files Lawsuit

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) – an anti-abortion organization – made quite a stir last year when it released a series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing profits made by illegally trading fetal tissue. Activists from the organization posed as employees of a fake biomedical company called Biomax Procurement Services and recorded meetings with workers from the women’s health nonprofit in a campaign to delegitimize the organization. During these meetings, activists proposed fake contracts to purchase fetal body parts, none of which were signed or agreed upon by the Planned Parenthood workers targeted by the scheme.

The veracity of what these videos depict has since come into question, as a congressional hearing designed to uncover wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood instead found an organization working entirely within the confines of the law. Eight state-level investigations have come to similiar conclusions.

Raw footage from the video series actually shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly refuting an activist’s insistence that there was any precedent for selling fetal tissue for research, despite a final edit that altered what the individual in question said in order to mischaracterize Planned Parenthood’s operations.

Even if much of general public remains unswayed by CMP’s smear-campaign, the controversy has had a decidedly deleterious impact. Numerous state legislatures and governors have targeted Planned Parenthood, cutting funding and limiting women’s access to vital health services. In Colorado, a gunman cited CMP’s videos as justification for an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three people. Workers for the nonprofit have spoken out over an increased number of death threats following the videos’ emergence.

Planned Parenthood, however, is poised to strike back. On January 14, the nonprofit filed a suit against CMP, alleging that the organization broke a number of state and federal laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The suit seeks extensive monetary reparations for workers who have been forced to move, have been threatened with violence, or have been picketed at their homes. The lawsuit also states that – in the months of July and August 2015 alone – there were 849 acts of vandalism against Planned Parenthood facilities across the United States.

When a nonprofit’s identity and message is hijacked by a hostile party, the basic pursuit of its organizational mission becomes immensely difficult. Especially for an organization that provides life-saving medical services for disadvantaged women, the reckless falsification of evidence claiming unlawful and cruel behavior is, in itself, unlawful and cruel behavior. Nonprofit professionals should maintain a rigorous standard of truth, and abide by a considered approach to uncovering facts. In doing so, they can help marginalize noxious voices in the nonprofit world willing to lie to their audiences in order to achieve their goals.

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