Category Archives: Money

Safra Catz, president and CFO at Oracle, out-earned all other female executives in the U.S.

Silicon Valley’s highest paid female excutive? Not Mayer, not Whitman, not Sandberg


The top-paid female executive in Silicon Valley (indeed, the entire U.S.) isn’t a CEO. She’s Safra Catz, president and CFO at Oracle Corp., who took in $44.3 million in 2013, according to

Three other Silicon Valley executives number among the top 10. Yahoo Inc. CEOMarissa Mayer placed number three on the ranking with $24.9 million a year; Hewlett-Packard Corp. CEO Meg Whitman, was seventh at $17.6 million; and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg captured the eighth position at $16.1 million.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison apparently likes paying his top executives — including himself — handsomely. He’s the highest paid CEO in Silicon Valley, according to FindTheBest, coming in fifth on the list of all U.S. executives at public companies, at $79.6 million in 2013.

Catz, 51, ranked 18th on the list among all executives. Still, she earned 14 percent less last year than she did in 2012. She has been president at Oracle since January 2004 and CFO since November 2005.

There’s a big gap among highly paid female executives after Catz. Mayer ranks 58th out of 16,000 companies on the list. The second highest-paid female executive in the U.S., United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt, ranked 26th among all executives.


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How Chick-fil-A Hires: The Christian Way

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The chicken chain’s hiring practice is long and controversial; but it’s hard to argue with results. Credit: J. Reed

There are a few things you need to become a franchisee operator of a Chick-fil-A.

A commitment to the company. A strong belief in “wholesome values”. A willingness to endure a year-long vetting process. And it helps if you are married.

What don’t you need? A lot of money.

Chick-fil-A is, store-for-store, the most successful fast food restaurant in America, despite all of its locations being closed once a week (Sundays). And yet, to become a franchise operator, a person only needs $5,000, compared to the $1.9 million it takes to open a KFC.

Rather than looking for operators with cash, S. Truett Cathy – the company’s founder – has always focused on finding people committed to the company’s mission statement. And what is that?

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us,” it reads. “To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The Hiring Process

Chick-fil-A gets between 10,000 to 25,000 applicants a year from aspiring franchise operators to fill the 60 to 70 open slots that open up each year, according to As part of the application, Chick-fil-A asks candidates to disclose their marital status, number of dependents and their involvement in community, civil and religious organizations, according to

The company’s vetting process can include more than a dozen interviews with an applicant – some lasting hours – and the applicant’s family, including with their children, according to Forbes.Cathy told the magazine he is looking for married candidates (he believes they are more industrious) who are loyal, wholesome and treat their families well.

“If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business,” Cathy said, according to Forbes.

Chick-fil-A’s hiring practices have been met with opposition, as the company has been sued at least 12 times on charges of employment discrimination, according to Forbes. And yet that has done little to stop the company from becoming the most successful fast food restaurant in America on a per-store basis.

The average Chick-fil-A store produced $2.7 million in revenue in 2010, which was $300,000 more than second-place McDonald’s, according to And turnover at Chick-fil-A stores for both franchise operators and hourly workers are both far below industry averages, according to Forbes.

One quick note, unlike many fast food chains, Chick-fil-A owns all of its stores and has franchise operators instead of owners. The setup seems to be mutually beneficial, as the average Chick-fil-A franchise operator makes $190,000 a year, more than most franchise owners, according to

The Bottom Line

Chick-fil-A’s hiring process is like Zappos in same ways: it has a very clear culture and makes cultural fit a top priority. The results are hard to argue with, as the company is one of the most successful restaurant chains in America, despite Forbes reporting that its closed-on-Sunday edict costs the company $500 million a year.

Saying that, there are many critics to the restaurant’s hiring practices and it seems to be a lawsuit-magnet. And by looking for a certain profile, the company is potentially excluding great candidates.

Ultimately though, what makes the company successful is its top-down commitment to one, clear vision, whether you agree with it or not. And that is epitomized in its hiring practice.

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‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Gets ‘Too Hot For TV’ Trailer


Universal (a division of Comcast CMCSA -0.73% Corp.) has dropped this full-length theatrical trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey courtesy of NBC’s The Today Show. The last ten seconds are arguably not safe for work, yet the trailer earned the green-band (for general audiences) approval.  There was actually a sanitized for network television version that debuted this morning on The Today Show which was followed by an interview with the cast and a clip from the film. This was actually preceded several days ago by what amounted to a teaser to the trailer presented by Beyoncé Knowles’s Instagram account. The star of Austin Powers: Goldmember and The Pink Panther will be singing a version of “Crazy in Love” for the film adaptation of E.L. James novel, some of which is sampled in the above trailer. It was certainly a different way to drop a yet another teaser for a trailer.  But them’s the breaks as the technology changes how marketing materials like this are dispersed. In this day and age, how a trailer is released is arguably as much of a news story as the existence of said trailer and what it contains about the film it is advertising.

This one was actually supposed to come out next week, where it would have competed directly with Walt Disney's DIS -0.53% Guardians of the Galaxy. But it was moved back to February 13th, 2015. So yes, Universal is either betting that women will drag their significant others to this erotic drama as something of a Valentine’s Day date movie and/or that single women will take in the picture as a kind of girls’ night out outing for the manufactured romantic holiday. This may seem like an unusual V-Day pick, but I’d argue it’s no more unconventional than studios opening a male-centric action picture over the holiday weekend and cynically hoping to woo the female audience by showing off what little romantic content it happens to contain (re: Daredevil). Maybe Universal will cut a trailer with a car chase and/or an explosion or two.

I’m not going to go into the issues that critics have with the source material, which is of course a bondage-centric bit of Twilight fan fiction that became a publishing sensation and indirectly coined the rather offensive term “mommy porn.” As is always the case when females become interested in any kind of popular art, the pundits and analysts were out in full force over the last couple years trying to explain why women had the gall to enjoy something that isn’t explicitly targeted at the male audience.  No one feels the need to explain why men like Transformers, but we all have to wring our hands over why women enjoy Sex and the CityTwilight, or Fifty Shades of Grey. My only issue with the film is that the online fan petition to get Alexis Bledel cast as Anastasia Steele didn’t work. Because you know, art…

I wrote last week about the fifteenth anniversary of Eyes Wide Shut and how Warner Bros. blew a chance to legitimize the NC-17 rating as a mainstream classification for adult films that aren’t explicitly pornographic in nature. I’m assuming Universal is going for an R-rating for at least the domestic theatrical release, but one could argue that Fifty Shades of Grey is also something of an opportunity to legitimize the NC-17 at least as a commercial option, if not an artistic one. Point being, I can’t imagine anyone intending to see an R-rated version of Fifty Shades of Grey would be turned off by the prospect of an NC-17 version. Nonetheless, I can’t imagine this film won’t get… um… spanked by (predominantly male) critics at large so artistic respect would still be out of reach for the NC-17 even on the off-chance that Universal takes the plunge.

Of course, the big question is whether or not adult moviegoers, female or male, will venture out to a theater and watch what is basically (and I say this without moral judgment) pornography amid other moviegoers. If ever there was a test case for a major studio release going Video On Demand and first run theatrical on the same date, it is this one. One last thing, the one unconditionally positive aspect of this film is that it is a female-targeted motion picture that is based on a novel written by a woman, adapted by a female screenwriter (Kelly Marcel) and directed by a female director (Sam Taylor-Johnson). In an era when women can’t even getting directing gigs for Sex and the City movies, the Hunger Games and Divergent movies are all helmed by men, and only the first Twilight was directed by a woman, Taylor-Johnson getting a crack at a probable hit darn-well matters. For that reason alone, I hope Fifty Shades of Grey makes a boatload of money next February. Fifty Shades of Grey, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, opens February 13th, 2015. As always, we’ll see.


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Mad Men or Mad Math? The Decline and Rebirth of Online Advertising 


by Satish Polisetti -

As more sites like Facebook, Twitter and Buzzfeed blend ads directly into a user’s content stream, the future of online advertising is quickly shifting. It’s a brave new world defined by content, not dimensions; mad math, not mad men. Science and data, not merely creative endeavors.

Where are we today? Currently, online ads are defined primarily by size and dimensions — with IAB ad unit guidelines describing leaderboards (728 x 90 pixels), skyscrapers (160 x 600), and full banners (468 x 60), to name a few.

These very basic but widely accepted standards are based on the artistic perspectives of a previous generation – from the minds of creative geniuses you might see on Mad Men. These have more to do with traditional ad buys, and print ad dimensions, ones that have not really changed much in the past few decades since the swinging 60′s of Don Draper.  When we jumped into internet advertising, the look and feel of advertising changed, but standards failed to get with the times.

And then there were banners:

The history of the online banner ad can be traced back to Yahoo! and a nascent online advertising ecosystem. These are where the leaderboards, skyscrapers and full banners really claimed their moment. A full decade later, tech giant Google was using AdWords and text based advertising to push a new kind of content-based advertising that set the tone for the next stage in ads: Facebook and the news feed.

Facebook, which quickly conquered the world’s attention – and their data, figured out how to actually use the massive amount of user data they had at their fingertips to makes ads better — by creating editorial-based stories on your news feed.

So if the online ad has experienced so much growth, why are we still living in a world where the standards are based in the era of the Yahoo! banner ad?

Luckily there’s a new set of standards gaining traction within our industry, which are semantic rather than dimensions based.

Core content, API’s, and the future of online advertising

It’s a game-changing question: What if this old idea of an ad being defined  by its size was replaced by editorial content and a description? What if ads were essentially the same as content? That’s what API’s and semantic standards are here for.

These new advertising standards make banners work like chameleons – blending into and adjusting to any type of website design.  What’s more, they take just 1/10 of the time to integrate than a traditional ad, they’re easy to implement, and they increase user engagement.

If this massive shift in direction continues – which I am confident it will – banners as a branding mechanism will start to fade away and a new ads standard will be fully accepted into the fold. Soon, all online ad experiences will be seamlessly integrated into your newsfeed or mobile experience. Already major budgets are being shifted to Facebook and Twitter advertising, and these shifts will make new API-based dimensions for banner ads the new standard. Entire industries will be changed accordingly. Companies that don’t make the transition will simply die a slow death – like the old advertising standards themselves.

Satish Polisetti Bio:

Native advertising expert and founder of AdsNative ( He’s a TechStars 2013 graduate, Mayfield Fund Fellow and 30 under 30 alumni of India’s #1 private university.


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Criminals Target Stubhub with New ‘Cyber Scalping’ Tactics

stubhub-hit-by-intense-network-of-cyber-fraudstersThe recent hacking of the world’s largest ticket marketplace, StubHub, points to new lengths in which criminals will go to turn their online capabilities and opportunities into illegal monetary gain. Seven criminals from around the world turned the San Francisco-based vendor’s online customers against them by hacking 1,600 accounts and laundering $1.6 million in fraudulent wire transfers and PayPal transactions.

“The assault on StubHub showcases the creativity of the cybercriminal underground,” said Trend Micro vice president of technology and solutions JD Sherry.  “They have taken ticket scalping to the next level in the form of ‘Cyber Scalping.’ Any event with a social aspect such as concerts or sports that conduct commerce with a large online community are primary targets for these sophisticated crime syndicates.  The sick twist on this form of scalping is that they are acquiring the tickets at no cost and garnering 100% profit.”

Trend Micro, a global leader in cloud security, also warns that cybercriminals are not yet done with the pilfered accounts and system information obtained illegally by the thieves. Rather, StubHub and its customers should be on the lookout for more fraudulent activity as the stolen content is more than likely making the rounds within the underground markets for purchase.

An attack of this magnitude can start with as little as the click of a link or the opening of a weaponized attachment. Another possibility would be popular watering hole sites or drive-by downloads that prove difficult to avoid and even more complicated to detect. Vendors who provide goods and services online to customers are increasingly becoming the target for these sorts of attacks, and should take a serious look at what anti-fraud capabilities they have in place.



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U.S. leads in number of people unconcerned about climate change and environmental disaster

The poll, conducted by U.K. research organization Ipsos MORI, was conducted in 20 countries across the globe, and gathered feedback from over 16,000 people. The poll asked eight climate change and environment-related questions.

When asked the question, “To what extent do you agree or disagree? We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly,” only 57.3% of the respondents in the U.S. said that they agree. Of the countries surveyed, the U.S. came in last in the number of respondents who agreed with that statement.

The ranking of countries surveyed when asked the question: To what extent do you agree or disagree? We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly. China had the most number of respondents to agree with that statement. The U.S. had the least. (Ipsos MORI)

China, which has been the leading emitter of carbon dioxide according to the Environmental Protection Agency, had the most number of respondents agree with the statement that the world is heading for a disaster. The Unites States is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and comes in 13th in energy efficiency, according to ascorecard released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Air quality issues in China might have played a role in these results. The smog problem is notoriously bad in the country, and could be in the forefront of peoples’ minds as they answer questions about the environment. The U.S., on the other hand, has seen a marked improvement in air quality since the mid-20th century, when some regions’ pollution rivaled China’s current levels.

In another survey question, respondents were asked if they agree that the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity. 54% of U.S. respondents said that they agree — the lowest agreement ratio of the 20 countries polled. In China, 93% agree that human activity is to blame.

In America, climate change often seems to boil down to party lines. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication suggests there is a way to communicate the scientific consensus without triggering political polarization. They offer the solution of “using short, simple, declarative sentences or simple pie charts” when communicating the science to the public. They also note that while metaphors and analogies can be proven successful, it’s important to remember that “simple, sticky messages” are most effective.


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Algorithms in the Mist: How researchers try to decode Facebook’s newsfeed

Algorithms in the Mist

The algorithms used by Facebook and others are murky at best. Researchers are working to understand them.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

by Alex Dalenberg

The UpTake: Algorithms are a fact of digital life, but the inner-workings of the likes of Facebook’s newsfeed and Google Search are famously opaque. These researchers are working to change that.

The algorithms that power applications likeFacebook‘s newsfeed and GoogleSearch shape the contours of our digital lives, but only a handful of engineers know how they actually work.

That was the upshot at a luncheon forum this week at Harvard’s Berkman Center Internet and Society in which three researchers described their efforts to decipher Facebook’s newsfeed from the outside.

Even the most technically savvy can only make educated guesses at how these tools function. Silicon Valley companies zealously guard their algorithms as proprietary secrets. They’re also constantly changing (here’s an interactive showing how Google Search worked in 2007).

For most Web users they remain out of sight, out of mind. A recent study of Facebook users suggests that a lot of us aren’t even aware of their existence.

When Karrie Karahalios, an associate professor in computer science at theUniversity of Illinois, and her colleagues went to test how Facebook chooses what to display on its newsfeed, the majority of their 40 study participants (about 62 percent) had no idea that Facebook was even making choices about what they saw or didn’t see in their newsfeed.

To do this, Karahalios and her team built an app using Facebook’s API showing everything happening in a user’s network, no filter, placed alongside the regular, filtered newsfeed that users see when they log into Facebook.

In short, it was the first time many of the participants realized they weren’t getting updates from certain friends, family members or other pages because of choices made by Facebook algorithms.

The MIT Center for Civic Media has a nice play-by-play breakdown of the entire presentation here. The Berkman Center website hasn’t posted the video of it yet, but when they do, it should show up here.

There’s a lot to unpack in this presentation–far more than in a short post–but I thought it was worth pointing out as part of a growing trend of academics, journalists and other advocates calling for what might be described as algorithmic transparency. For example, Nick Diakopoulos, a Tow Fellow at the Columbia Journalism School, has argued that poking and prodding at algorithms should be its own journalism beat.

Why is it important? For one thing, algorithms determine what gets an airing in the marketplace of ideas. The companies that build these algorithms also have their prerogatives, and they don’t necessarily line up with the user’s when it comes to what they see and when.Christian Sandvig of the University of Michigan, who also presented at the Berkman Center, writes in detail about this here.

Recall the firestorm over the news that Facebook experimented on users by making newsfeed changes to test its impact on their emotions as well as the company’s tepid response. This conversation isn’t going away.


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Gangs, guns and Judas Priest: the secret history of a US-inflicted border crisis

Central America didn’t always have a gang epidemic. We exported that

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central america gangs
Children and migrants are fleeing rival gangs from the northern triangle of Central America, but the cycle of violence began further north than that. Photograph: Luis Romero / AP

Visiting El Salvador over the past year, it was hard not to think the country’s number-one job is standing around outside with a gun. In the region from which child migrants are fleeing to the US, personal security is largely a question of what you can afford to pay. El Salvador has, by one estimate, 25,000 private guards in a country with 20,000 police officers. In Honduras, which boasts the highest murder rate in the world and has seen the largest exodus of young people to the American border this year, guards outnumber cops five to one.

Wealthy Salvadorans can retreat to residential compounds that resemble a militarized version of a Palm Beach retirement community, complete with golf carts. Behind high walls and even higher voltage wires, one economist gushed to me: “This place has everything – we never have to go outside!” For the rest, those who stay and those who get sent back, gangland drama is a fact of life.

For Americans behind our own wall, there is a sense of bewilderment. We wonder why these young people are showing up at our borders, if they are enticed by some false promise of amnesty. And then we send them back.

But child migrants escaping north are not so irrational, and the current wave is neither new nor terribly mystifying. The factors that push and pull them – extreme violence, extortion, forced gang recruitment and a desire to reunite with family – are rooted in the United States’s heavy hand in the region.

Central America didn’t always have a gang epidemic. That was exported there by us. And the current immigration crisis is as much a United States legacy as it has become a local tragedy – a consequence of US-financed civil wars from the 1980s that sparked the first migration wave, and of US policies toward those migrants after they arrived.

ms 13 devil horns hand
The origin of MS-13′s trademark devil-horns hand sign comes from an English-language metal band and the streets of Los Angeles Photograph: Ulises Rodriguez / EPA

Both major gangs now plaguing the region originated in Los Angeles. The gang that became MS-13 was originally an informal collection of teenage civil war refugees and metal-heads who borrowed their devil-horns hand sign from Judas Priest. Their onetime ally-turned-rival, Mara 18, traces back to the 1940s but shared with the newer gang an open-door membership for Central Americans that put them both at odds with the area’s more established, exclusively Mexican gangs. When those gangs began to terrorize the new immigrants, MS-13 and Mara 18 fought back. Only later would they spread to the countries which their parents had left, through deportations, and contribute to today’s migration wave.

In time, MS-13 and Mara 18 came to surpass their oppressors, thanks in part to a citywide police sweep that preceded the 1984 LA Summer Olympics, busting up the known Angeleno gangs but overlooking the new Central American rivals – and also their propensity for violence, notoriously favoring machetes for attacks.

These street battles would have been of little concern to most Americans were it not for President Clinton and his desire to triangulate Republicans on crime. In 1996, he signed a law that ratcheted up deportations of immigrants with criminal records – including those with citizenship – by making things like drunk driving and petty theft deportable offenses.

Shipping off undesirable immigrants proved enormously popular among Democrats and Republicans alike, and mass deportations continued apace under Presidents Bush and Obama – overwhelmingly to Mexico and Central America. According to Homeland Security data, annual criminal deportations to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have since jumped more than five-fold, from 1,987 in 1995 to 106,420 in 2013. Add the non-criminal deportation boom that will explode this year should Obama get the expedited deportation authority he’s currently seeking, and you’ll have the makings of yet another migration crisis just down the road.

Of course, deporting hundreds of thousands of criminals has been far less popular in the countries to which deportees are sent “home” – to a place many left as toddlers and do not remember. Mostly unemployable, some speaking little to no Spanish, many reconstituted their maras in countries ill-prepared to deal with them, still in the midst of postwar reconstruction, with underequipped and easily corruptible police in only nominal control of public safety.

It’s a cycle: With each planeload of deportees, the gangs grew stronger, expanding their activities and recruiting younger members by force – taking a page from the armies Washington had backed a generation earlier – and it is precisely those children they target who await processing in our border detention facilities today.

Once again, migrants fleeing a conflict zone we helped create are showing up at our doorstep, and our solution, once again, is to send them back. Basic humanity dictates that we consider the plight that brought them here, and that we prioritize family reunification. So, too, does the law – one which Congressional Republicans, who routinely charge Obama with not enforcing immigration law, are now clamoring for him to ignore, and Obama remains just as eager to oblige them.

During El Salvador’s recent presidential elections, the opposition party posted billboards in regions from which the largest number of migrants are leaving. Under pictures of Salvadoran families in DC, California and New York read lines like I WANT TO RETURN TO A COUNTRY FREE OF GANGS. It’s an ambition unlikely to be realized as long as the US believes we can deport our problems away, because eventually, those problems tend to come back to haunt us.


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The benefits cliff: when minimum wage increases backfire on the people in need

For many Americans living in poverty, the real cost of higher minimum wage could be benefits lost by a few dollars gained

US Money upset woman benefits
A 50-cent raise could result in many Americans losing childcare benefits, thus plunging the family deeper into poverty. Photograph: Chris Rout/Alamy

Here’s the paradox of the minimum wage: even as the higher minimum wage attempts to lift low-wage workers out of poverty and help them get off benefits, it might actually leave them worse off than before. The reason? The few extra dollars tacked onto their pay checks cause them to lose their federal benefits, including food stamps or housing subsidies.

For example, a wage of about $11 to $12 can cost a single mother with two children their food stamps, also known as Snap benefits. A wage of about $15 to $16, similar to the minimum wage recently enacted in Seattle, can leave that same family without any childcare benefits.

“This is a big issue with deciding [social] programs, because you want the programs to be targeted towards the people that most need them,” explains Curtis Skinner, director of family economic security at National Center for Children in Poverty. “On the other hand, you don’t want to create this disincentive, which is possible, to earn more or to take a promotion.”

It’s the benefits cliff, and it’s very real.

“There is this issue of the benefits cliffs, where some programs are designed so just a very marginal increase in earnings can result in a loss of a very important benefit. And a lot of states, unfortunately, have structured their childcare subsidies programs that way,” explains Skinner.

“Typically, pay rises, income rises, but at some point you lose eligibility for a subsidies all together and it’s an abrupt reduction in that family’s resources,” Skinner says.

In the world of benefits, nuclear families are far from the norm. Very often, the benefits are calculated on the income of a single breadwinner – usually a mother.

A single mother with two children is “a common family type, it’s not an anomaly at all,” explains Derek Thomas, a senior policy analyst at the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

Minimum wage wars: $10.10 v $15

The current proposal in Washington to increase the national minimum wage to $10.10 would help families keep their benefits.

“Such families would retain these benefits at $10.10,” explains Skinner. “Families would also qualify, most importantly, for childcare subsidies at this level of income.”

Increasing minimum wage, however, affects the pay of all low-wage workers.

It’s the $11 to $11.50 hourly wage where families begin to lose their Snap benefits, says Thomas.

The higher the minimum wage gets, the less in benefits the family is eligible to receive.

“Raising minimum wage to $15 an hour, you also have the same problem with childcare in Indiana. Because going from $15 to $15.50, you lose almost $9,000 in childcare benefits in Indianapolis,” explains Thomas.

US Money benefit cliff Indiana
In Indiana, the most dramatic benefit ‘cliff’ occurs when child care subsidies are lost between the wages of $15.00 and $15.50 per hour – a total net resource loss of $8,454, and about 25% loss in annual resources. Photograph: Indiana Institute for Working Families

The problem is not unique to Indiana. A higher minimum wage improves a family’s financial situation, but too often, not by enough.

“In many places, $15 minimum wage would still be too low to make ends meet for a family of three in large cities,” says Skinner. “The big issue is that it could cause some families to lose childcare subsidies – well over $10,000 a year. The families would have to balance the tradeoff between the wage increase and losing the childcare subsidies if they need them.”

Childcare is the most expensive benefit to lose.

Living wage

How to fix this is the thorny issue.

“The minimum wage is not the way to go,” says Skinner, pointing out that by the time it’s finally implemented, it’s likely the wage will be once again outdated.

Considering all this, advocates have begun calling for a move away from the minimum wage and the adoption of something called a living wage. Or as Thomas puts it, a self-sufficient wage.

“Everyone likes the idea of self-sufficiency,” Thomas says. When earning a self-sufficient wage, a mom with two kids wouldn’t need to rely on any governmental assistance to make ends meet.

“The math is clear. We need to bring [minimum wage] up to living wage so that we spend less on benefits. That’s the goal,” says Susan J. Roll, an assistant professor at the School of Social work at the California State University in Chico. “No one wants to live on benefits.”

US money strike 15 minimum wage
Protesters hold ‘Strike for 15′ signs at the Brighton Park McDonald’s in Chicago during a protest for higher minimum wage. Photograph: Steve Rhodes/Demotix/Corbis

The last bill to increase the federal minimum wage was passed in 2007. Increasing minimum wage to the proposed $10.10 in the current US political climate seems difficult enough. Moving to a living wage might well be impossible.

Unfortunately, calculating a living wage is no easy task. A self-sufficient wage would not be the same for all areas in the US. It can also vary significantly across counties of any given state.

While the self-sufficient wage in Indianapolis is $19, there are other counties where it’s even higher, notes Thomas, adding that in some places it’s as high as $22 an hour.

There is a reason why the gap between the current minimum wage and the living wage is so high. “The wages have remained basically the same and the cost of goods has increased,” explains Thomas.

Bringing the issue back to the communities

As a result, many state and local governments have taken the matters into their own hands. Recently, Seattle raised their minimum wage to $15 an hourChicago is mulling doing the same.

When considering an increase in minimum wage, states should also revisit the issue of their benefit eligibility levels, says Thomas. “That’s a good time for states to deal with both issues at the same time.”


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BioSkin Facade Wins Tall Building Innovation Award

NBF Osaki Building uses BioSkin facade system

BioSkin facade, a system of water-filled ceramic pipes that cools the exterior surface of buildings and their surrounding micro-climates, has won the 2014 Tall Building Innovation Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).  The initial use of BioSkin was at the NBF Osaki Building in Tokyo, Japan.

BioSkin is a system of ceramic pipes, affixed to the side of a building, which absorbs heat through rainwater evaporation, mitigating the urban heat island effect by cooling the building as well as its immediate surroundings. Through this process, the surface temperature of the building enclosure can be reduced by as much as 12 degrees Celsius and its micro-climate by about 2 degrees.

The potential implications of this are substantial:

If a large number of buildings in a city used such a system, ambient air temperature could be reduced to the point thatcooling loads for many buildings, even those without the system installed, could be reduced.

The NBF Osaki Building uses BioSkin facade systemThe simplicity of the system is elegant. The BioSkin tubes are made of extruded aluminum cores, with a highly water-retentive terra-cotta shell attached to the aluminum core using an elastic adhesive. When rainwater collects on the rooftop, it is then drained to a subsurface storage tank, where it is filtered and sterilized. This water is then pumped up and circulated through the pipes, which in the live test case were incorporated as balcony railings on a Tokyo office building, reminiscent of the horizontal screens seen throughout Japan and known as sudare.

Rainwater penetrates outward through the porous ceramic, evaporating from the pipe’s surface, cooling the surrounding air. Excess water is then drained down to the soil of the premises to the extent possible, normalizing the water cycle and reducing the load on sewage infrastructure.

“BioSkin is a bold concept, suitably analyzed, elegantly integrated into the architectural form and beautifully detailed,” said 2014 Technical Awards Juror Paul Sloman, Principal and Buildings Group Leader at Arup, Sydney, Australia.

“This is a remarkable façade solution, both in its concept and how it has been beautifully detailed,” said David Scott, Technical Awards Jury Chair and lead structural director of the Engineering Excellence Group at Laing O’Rourke, London, UK. “I look forward to seeing this being proven by measurement. It is elegantly and delicately detailed, and it is quite outstanding, as it is combined with many other innovations in this remarkable building.”

The CTBUH Innovation Award recognizes a specific area of recent innovation in a tall building project that has been incorporated into the design, or implemented during construction, operation, or refurbishment. Unlike the CTBUH Best Tall Building awards, which consider each project holistically, this award is focused on one special area of innovation within the design, construction, or operation of the project – thus not the building overall. The areas of innovation can embrace any discipline, including but not limited to: technical breakthroughs, construction methods, design approaches, urban planning, building systems, façades, and the interior environment.

Source: Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat



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