Get the best stories to your readers as they happen. The Washington Post News Service streams breaking news, enterprise and features with photos, graphics and video directly to you.

How money eclipsed power as Washington's chief social currency

By Roxanne Roberts
How money eclipsed power as Washington's chief social currency
Dinner for the reopening of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 28. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

WASHINGTON - The black-tie dinner at the National Gallery of Art was a dazzling affair. To celebrate the September reopening of the East Wing after a three-year renovation, the gallery invited 450 art donors, collectors, artists and other dignitaries to view the collection of modern art and then enjoy champagne, caviar, bison and hand-sculpted chocolate terrariums presented under individual glass domes.

David Rubenstein, one of the gallery's five trustees, was sitting at his table when a guest came over to greet him. "David! How are you?" the man exclaimed, then turned to the person seated to Rubenstein's right. "Hi! Who are you? What's your name?"

"John Roberts."

"And what do you do?" the man continued, clueless.

Rubenstein hastily explained that his dinner partner was the chief justice of the United States. Roberts was unflappable, the man embarrassed. But when another guest approached Rubenstein for a selfie, the billionaire gently suggested that one with Roberts would be more impressive.

The idea that the chief justice was not instantly recognizable, even in a room full of VIPs, would have been shocking just 10 years ago. But Washington, D.C.'s social landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade, driven by bitterly partisan politics and a booming private sector.

Long before Donald Trump was elected president, politicians and administration officials who had traditionally topped Washington's A-list were opting out of the social scene, replaced by philanthropists and CEOs willing and eager to make their mark on the nation's capital and its institutions. The handful of federal officials at the East Wing dinner was eclipsed by philanthropists like Rubenstein, Roger and Vicki Sant, Calvin and Jane Cafritz, Adrienne Arsht, Mitch and Emily Rales, and Connie Milstein, all billionaires or millionaires.

In this respect, Washington - once a one-industry town where politics dominated every aspect of life - is becoming more like other American cities, where business titans like Carnegie, Mellon and Rockefeller shaped the cultural and social fabric. A city where big money and big ambition outshine titles or tradition.

---

On a Friday night in September, the Wolf Trap Ball kicked off the fall social season - a fancy catchall phrase for the parade of receptions, galas, dinners, book parties and other ways of raising money in Washington that starts after Labor Day and ends just before holiday parties begin.

Wolf Trap had a very special guest: former first lady Laura Bush, who came to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and brought her husband along. The Bushes, brimming with good cheer and bad jokes, charmed the 800 people on the Filene Center stage, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the British and Irish ambassadors.

But the key players were the money men who filled the gala with present and future donors: Wolf Trap Chairman of the Board Dan D'Aniello, the billionaire co-founder of the Carlyle Group investment firm, as well as Fred Humphries and Tim Keating, who co-chaired the ball with their wives.

Humphries, vice president of government affairs at Microsoft, and Keating, vice president of government operations at Boeing, read out a list of the evening's top sponsors. "I'm proud to be co-chair of the Wolf Trap Ball," Keating told the crowd. "This is the third time I've had this honor, and, I swear to God, it is the last time."

The two men announced that the party had raised a record $1.5 million for the Wolf Trap Foundation's educational programs. Wait, not quite - they were actually $8,000 short. "Every pocket in this room has been picked at least once," joked Keating, who then said that he and his wife would make up the difference and that Boeing would match it.

There was laughter and applause, and then Keating asked everyone to fill out the donation cards at each table and give just a little bit more.

---

There was a time, not that many decades ago, when Washington's social elite would never have deigned to mingle with corporate executives, no matter how wealthy or well-connected. Washington was insular, WASP-y and, if we're being frank, full of snobs.

The storied Georgetown set arrived in two waves - the first with FDR, the second with JFK - and had family fortunes, East Coast pedigrees and ties to the White House. There were very few large balls; hostesses entertained at home, seated guests according to a strict hierarchy of rank and title, and rarely mingled outside their tight social circles.

Everything shifted in the 1990s. Politicians and their families, who used to live in Washington and socialize together, started commuting to and from their districts every week to avoid being perceived as inside-the-Beltway sellouts. Ethics scandals scared some politicians away from parties; others proclaimed that they'd been sent to Washington to tear the place down, not sip champagne with the establishment elites. Those legendary dinner parties, where politicians from both sides of the aisle debated the future of the world, died a quick and brutal death.

At the same time, the local business community began to grow: tech companies in Virginia, biotech in Maryland, private equity firms and hedge funds in the District. Suddenly, there was a lot of money in Washington that wasn't dependent on the federal government, and a new wave of wealthy businessmen with deep pockets and high profiles, like the late multimillionaires Joe Robert or Jim Kimsey, best friends who used to publicly challenge each other to write the biggest check for their favorite charities.

"Old money, high-ranking government officials and the top ambassadors - that was the A-list" of old, says journalist Kevin Chaffee, who has covered Washington society for almost 40 years. "Now it's new money who like to give it away: media, and a certain smattering of the old categories, but they're less important."

Who are the social leaders of today? Chaffee, now senior editor of Washington Life Magazine, has a working definition: "If they walk into the room and everybody's heads turn, then they're on the A-list."

Any president and first lady are obviously top draws, and Washington will soon face the unprecedented spectacle of having both the former and current president in residence. It's always a coup to get high-profile political and media personalities such as Secretary of State John Kerry, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, CNN's Wolf Blitzer or any of the Supreme Court justices.

But the classic path to achieving social status is paved with gold: (1) Make or inherit money. (2) Start giving back. (3) Make a name as a philanthropist. For some people it's a byproduct of a successful career; for others, the goal.

Most of today's A-list - a racially diverse group of wealthy Democrats and Republicans, corporate heads and entrepreneurs - aren't people whom most would recognize on the street: Atlantic Media owner David Bradley and his wife, Katherine; foundation head Catherine Reynolds and her husband, Wayne; BET chief executive Debra Lee; candy heiress Jackie Mars; superlawyer and Clinton confidant Vernon Jordan and his wife, Ann; Wizards and Capitals co-owner Raul Fernandez and his wife, Jean-Marie; former White House social secretary Lea Berman and her husband, Wayne; biotech entrepreneur Sachiko Kuno; Republican hostess Buffy Cafritz; AOL co-founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean; Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein and his wife, Sally; and dozens more. They're known and respected in corporate and philanthropic circles, but not celebrities in the conventional sense of the word. Their social status comes from leveraging their names, raising money and supporting a number of local charities.

It's easy to sneer at new money, says Chaffee, but the fact is, they give and give big. This new social order - less snobby, more generous - is arguably better for the city and for everyone who lives here.

"There's nothing more democratic than having a lot of money," he says.

---

On the last weekend of September, David Rubenstein attended seven events.

On Friday night, he kicked off the Library of Congress Literacy Awards, then raced to the Kennedy Center for a concert celebrating the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. (His car got caught in traffic behind President Barack Obama's motorcade, so Rubenstein sprinted two blocks on foot and was blocked by the Secret Service until the president spotted him and waved him through.)

On Saturday, he attended the museum's morning dedication (his gift of $10 million was one of the largest) and its gala dinner that night; in between, he squeezed in interviews with Shonda Rhimes, Bob Woodward and Diane Rehm at the National Book Festival.

On Sunday, he dropped by the National Archives Foundation gala with "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, then headed to the Kennedy Center, where, as chairman, he opened the National Symphony Orchestra season.

"'I'm not doing anything I don't enjoy," he explains in an interview at his Carlyle Group office. "Giving back to the country is fun. I came from very modest circumstances. I now find myself in Washington with a fair amount of money and the access to people that I'd only dreamed about when I was growing up in Baltimore."

As a young White House staffer in the Carter administration, he was just another face in the crowd of bright young things. Then he spent 20 years building Carlyle and made his fortune, which now hovers at around $2.5 billion. After giving away hundreds of millions and with plans to give away another billion, he's having his version of fun. He travels 200 days a year for work; when he's in Washington, he's at an event every night. He multitasks his life, inviting friends to join him at galas and other parties.

Rubenstein waves off any suggestion that he's at the top of Washington's A-list. Naturally shy, he doesn't think of himself as a particularly social person, doesn't drink and doesn't care much for small talk and backslapping. His idea of a really good time is a serious conversation that helps him understand what makes people tick. His social ambitions boil down to this: "What is life all about but getting to meet interesting people who have done interesting things?"

His problem, he explains, is that he's 67 years old. Classmates from law school are at the end of their careers, or dead. He's rich, healthy and lucky. And he knows it.

"I want to get things done between now and when my brain falls apart or my body collapses," he says. "I call what I'm doing 'sprinting to the finish line.' "

That's good news for the Kennedy Center: Rubenstein agreed to become chairman in 2010, donating millions and introducing the national arts center to dozens of his wealthy friends - D'Aniello, one of his co-founders at the Carlyle Group, underwrites Italian operas at the Washington National Opera.

The bad news is that no one person, no matter how generous, can sustain an entire institution. The challenge for everyone is finding that next generation of philanthropists.

"Everybody can name the top 30 wealthiest people in Washington," says Marie Mattson, vice president for development at the Kennedy Center. "But you're always looking for the next person: They're not the ones getting 400 invitations. Maybe they're only getting a dozen invitations. So we invite them to the center." And with luck, they'll start donating.

"There's a coming-of-age aspect of philanthropy," says Wolf Trap president Arvind Manocha. At a certain point in their lives - whether it's through chance, peer pressure, professional networking or actual charity - the socially inclined naturally seek out causes and institutions that they enjoy and that reflect well on them.

But most 20-somethings aren't looking to land on a social list; they're looking for a good time.

---

The idea of throwing a party for fun - no cause, no agenda - is so rare that the annual "Welcome Home" party hosted by real estate mogul Calvin Cafritz and his wife, Jane, every September is a rare unicorn in a field of fundraising ponies. For years, the couple has invited a long list of friends, most returning to the capital after spending the summer away, to eat, drink and dance in their Georgetown home.

Fun is the great unspoken factor in this modern frenzy of philanthropy. People, even very rich people doing Important Things, like to have a good time.

White House state dinners, for those lucky enough to receive an invitation, are fun. The frenzied red-carpet rubbernecking of the White House Correspondents' Association dinner every spring is fun, at least the first time. Embassies and the ambassadors who preside over them can be fun, especially since they're something that no other city can offer.

There's a glamour associated with embassies in Washington, partly because they're in some of the most impressive mansions in the nation's capital. The ambassadors from the countries that are traditional U.S. allies - France, Great Britain, Italy, Ireland and Israel - get A-list status by simply presenting their credentials. Invitations to most embassies are highly coveted, but the parties reflect the personalities of their hosts. The current French ambassador, Gérard Araud, has created a lively salon, throwing open his Kalorama residence for receptions and dinners on a regular basis. Rima al-Sabah, wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador, is renowned for her A-list dinners filled with Cabinet secretaries, White House officials, corporate heavyweights and the occasional movie star.

Embassies also play a huge role in the appeal of the Meridian Ball, which started as a black-tie waltz 48 years ago to support Meridian International Center, a global leadership organization. The ball was run by a succession of socially prominent women who vied for the honor to chair the event. Patrons were invited to embassy dinners around town, then gathered at the center's beaux-arts mansion off 16th Street for dancing. It was always elegant, but not always memorable.

About 20 years ago, organizers added a dinner at the White-Meyer House, the property next door. The idea was to introduce the ball to younger patrons who would dine in an English country house setting and mingle with the big donors coming from the embassy dinners. The experiment was such a success that many of the same people, now in their 40s and 50s, are skipping the embassies so that they can hang out with their friends. (The embassy dinners, however, remain an important draw for the corporate crowd.)

About 10 years ago, the ball added a tent and a DJ on the back lawn, thinking that it would appeal to the younger crowd. Now it's the most popular part of the party: lights low, the champagne flowing, the dance floor jammed all night with couples of all ages.

"There's very little asked of the guest other than to have fun," explains center president Stuart Holliday. "There are so few true parties."

What looks like effortless fun is based on dozens of strategic decisions by Holliday and his team. October's ball featured no speeches, no silent auctions, no heartfelt appeals. Despite the shift to increasingly casual parties, this one remains black tie, because there's a level of glamour that comes with dressing up.

Holliday is not only competing with dozens of other charities for those fundraising dollars, he is also competing with a new social draw: the District's vibrant food scene. People who used to socialize at charity dinners now have literally hundreds of options for entertaining friends at restaurants. His job is to convince them that the Meridian Ball is a "destination event" worth their time and money.

The choices are dizzying. There are more and more fundraisers every year; high-profile donors get invitations to four or five events on a single night. There's incredible pressure for organizers to stand out and impress people who have seen it all. It's not enough to be entertained. Guests need to be wowed.

Design Cuisine catered the East Wing opening and wanted to top the dinner it did for the National Gallery's 75th anniversary in the spring. The museum borrowed Bernardaud chargers from the Calder Foundation; the menu was created to rival any three-star restaurant. Guests actually gasped when waiters walked in with the dessert served under foot-high domes.

Design Cuisine co-founder Bill Homan has watched Washington go from discreet home dinners to events at historical venues - say, Mount Vernon - hosted by CEOs looking for something more interesting than a hotel ballroom or a restaurant. Business is booming: The past two to three years have been the best since the company was founded in 1981.

"There's just so many more people with so much more money," Homan says.

---

Kevin Plank walked into the Washington Hilton ballroom a happy man. The 44-year-old billionaire founder of athletic-wear giant Under Armour chaired the 28th Fight Night in November, a celebration of boxing, cigars, steaks and all things testosterone.

The party raised $5 million for local children's charities before it even started, "and we'll see how much more," said Plank with a big smile. "It's a great night for the city."

When the late real estate investor Joe Robert founded the event, part of its appeal was the shocking lack of concern for traditional Washington society or sensibilities. With ring girls, booze and brawn, Robert invited his real estate and tech buddies to enjoy their success in a fun - and politically incorrect - boys' night out.

The rest, of course, is history: The event thrived as the private-sector economy grew, drawing big money, big names and even the occasional politician. When Robert died in 2011, Raul Fernandez, vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, picked up the torch.

This year's event was once again sold out; the 2,000 guests, mostly business professionals, included Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Redskins cheerleaders and dozens of gorgeous young table hostesses clad in skintight red evening gowns.

It's "the most fun night" of the year, said Republican strategist and MSNBC pundit Steve Schmidt, taking a much-needed break from election postmortems in a politics-free zone.

"Anytime people get down about this country, think about Kevin Plank," he said. "Think about Under Armour. It shows you anything is possible in America."

Ivanka Trump: Passionate political advocate or a businesswoman building her brand?

By Juliet Eilperin and Karen Tumulty
Ivanka Trump: Passionate political advocate or a businesswoman building her brand?
Ivanka Trump, daughter of President-elect Donald Trump, walks out of an elevator at Trump Tower in New York on November 17, 2016. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Jabin Botsford-The Washington Post

The quest to unearth the Manhattan moderate that may lie deep within Donald Trump's psyche runs directly through his daughter, Ivanka.

This, at least, is the impression that she has given over the past few weeks, brokering meetings between the president-elect and environmentalists such as former vice president Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and chatting about child care with prominent feminists.

But as Ivanka Trump expands her circle of allies and sorts out what kind of influence she might have over the policies of the next administration, the question arises: Are her efforts a reflection of her passions and convictions - or of a desire to extend the brand of a fashion entrepreneur whose market is primarily young women?

The two may not be mutually exclusive. The public and private outreach Ivanka Trump has made to influential liberals underscores the extent to which the Trumps' political and financial interests are interwoven, even as family members are taking steps to separate themselves from aspects of their business.

Sorting out and reorganizing the Trump family enterprise is a work in progress. The president-elect has tweeted that he will be "leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country," and he has promised an announcement with his children on December 15 to explain precisely how the family plans to do that.

Watchdog groups and ethics experts are calling for Trump to fully divest his businesses, but the family is looking at a more complicated arrangement.

While Trump's two older sons, Don Jr. and Eric, are likely to focus on running their father's real estate empire after he takes office, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, intend to serve as informal but influential advisers to the president.

The likelihood is that Ivanka Trump will drastically scale back her role in her father's commercial enterprises, but it is far from certain that she will relinquish control over the formidable lifestyle brand she has established in her own right.

One of her advisers, who asked not to be identified in order to describe an ongoing decision-making process, said "she's figuring out what her role is" and knows that she will have to "separate commercial interests from her issue advocacy."

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Ivanka Trump quietly separated her personal social media accounts - a vehicle through which she plans to carry out her advocacy - from that of her business. In a "letter from the editorial team" on her Ivanka.com website, the company explained that, going forward, @IvankaTrump would feature her personal advocacy while @IvankaTrumpHQ on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter would include brand initiatives such as "#womenwhowork" and fashion stories.

"This is an unprecedented time for our company and we are being intentional in how we move forward, working hard to ensure we're creating the best possible community for our readers," the letter read. "We've been listening to the feedback we've received, both positive and not, and we've been taking it into consideration as we plan for the future."

Alienating young women could pose a financial risk to Ivanka Trump's business ventures. Opponents of the president-elect have targeted the brand with a boycott, and shortly after her prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention this summer - where she sported a dress from her fashion line that sold out at Macy's shortly thereafter - Cosmopolitan found that millennial women held an unfavorable view of her. The Cosmopolitan/Morning Consult poll of 3,000 registered voters found that 28 percent of women ages 18 to 34 had a positive view of her, while 42 percent had a negative one.

She has already raised conflict of interest questions. Her presence at a meeting her father had with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and her firm's decision to tout the $10,800 diamond bracelet she wore during the family's post-election "60 Minutes" interview, prompted a swift backlash.

Ivanka Trump is entering unchartered territory: While several presidents' daughters, and daughters-in-law, have served as White House hostesses, presidential historian William Searle noted that none has served as an influential public policy adviser.

"A more modern woman, coming in with her own career, is a little different," said Searle, author of "The President's House" and an editor at the White House Historical Association. "If there's someone there who's smart and can do it, why not?"

If Hillary Clinton had won, many in Washington would likely be asking the same question, given her daughter Chelsea's prominent role at her family's foundation.

Several people who know Ivanka Trump and her husband say the two could prove invaluable as the new president seeks to build trust with groups that opposed his candidacy. The two have moved easily within Manhattan's overwhelmingly liberal upper crust and have earned reputations as hard-working and willing to listen to others.

"They are two of the most valuable people to the president-elect, in terms of making a bridge to different constituencies," said Kevin Sheekey, who managed all three of former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's campaigns and served as deputy mayor for government affairs. "And a determination of whether the administration is successful is going to lie in their ability to build relationships in unexpected places."

Ivanka Trump plans to focus primarily on issues related to women and families, which she highlighted during her father's campaign. Since the election, she has spoken on the topic with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and the New America Foundation's president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, but she has not connected with major policy groups such as the D.C.-based National Partnership for Women and Families.

A newer interest is climate change, which led to meetings between the president-elect and Gore and then DiCaprio in the past week.

Up until this point, Ivanka Trump has been relatively quiet on environmental issues. Donald Trump and his three older children signed a December 2009 open letter in the New York Times to President Obama that urged him to forge a global climate agreement. The letter was organized by ABC Home chief executive Paulette Cole, whose home furnishing store was patronized by both Trump and his business.

Cole said in an email that while she is not familiar with how the Trumps got on the letter, Trump was a friend of her late father, ABC Carpet chairman Jerome Weinrib, as well as a store customer.

In 2012 Ivanka Trump and Kushner attended the White House correspondents' dinner as Bloomberg's guests and sat at the same table as Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, which has received tens of millions from Bloomberg to shut down coal plants across the country. The group discussed climate change, Sheekey recalled, and Brune came away impressed.

But in an interview, Brune said his favorable impression of Trump and Kushner has to be weighed against the president-elect's policy positions and key appointments, including his nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Brune compared Pruitt's appointment with "putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires."

"Any advocate worth their salt will know the difference between access and influence, and it's vital that we not be fooled by what this administration is doing," he said. "It's great that Ivanka and Jared may, occasionally, feel that climate change is an issue. Until they're setting policy, it's a sideshow, it's a distraction - at best."

With few available options, prominent progressives see Trump's daughter and son-in-law as potential allies within Trump's circle. A major supporter of Planned Parenthood, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal strategy, said some of the group's New York donors were reaching out to the couple.

But the supporter added, "We have to go on the assumption there's no relief in sight," given not just the president-elect's stated opposition to abortion rights but also the fact that his running mate, Mike Pence, as well as GOP congressional leaders, have made targeting Planned Parenthood a top priority.

Kirk Fordham, a strategist for progressive groups who has worked for Republicans, estimated than "fewer than 10 percent" of these organizations developed a "Trump contingency plan" before the election. Now, he added, they need to mobilize their Republican members. "You've got to be power-mapping his New York relatives and his friends, because nearly all of them are liberal."

After Olympics, Rio mired in crisis

By Dom Phillips
After Olympics, Rio mired in crisis
Police officers stand guard during a protest by civil servants outside the Legislative Assembly in Rio de Janeiro on Nov. 16, 2016. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Dado Galdieri.

RIO DE JANEIRO -Three months after its successful staging of the Summer Olympics, Brazil's cultural hub should be riding high. Instead it is a financial, political, crime-ridden mess.

The Rio de Janeiro state government is broke, struggling to pay salaries. On Tuesday, riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades at public-sector workers protesting a proposed austerity package. Among the protesters: police, firefighters and teachers. Some of the protesters hurled rocks and fireworks back at the riot police.

Two former governors have been arrested, one accused of vote-buying, the other of running a vast corruption ring. Prosecutors are investigating billions of dollars in state tax exemptions that benefited luxury jewelers, construction companies and even brothels. And violent crime continues to surge, along with allegations of execution-style mass killings by overtaxed police.

Rather than the bright, post-Olympic future they were promised, many Cariocas - as Rio's citizens are known - fear the city is doubling down on the chaos and corruption of its past.

"It's in the worst condition in 20 years," said Ignacio Cano, a professor of sociology at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. "You have an economic crisis, a political crisis, a moral crisis. There is a general perception of a very dark time."

Financial problems are at the core of the state's difficulties. In June, just weeks before the Olympics, officials declared a state of fiscal "public calamity." Brazil's federal government stepped in with an $870 million bailout, but that money has gone - and with it the Olympic cheer that briefly uplifted the city.

Rio's governor, Luiz de Souza, has blamed the state's money woes on a drop in oil-tax revenue because of the fall in petroleum prices and a slowdown at the state-run oil company Petrobras. The company, which is headquartered in Rio, has been roiled by an enormous graft scandal.

Faced with a $5 billion deficit and a government that has more retired than active employees, de Souza, known as "Pezão," or "Big Foot," is pushing austerity measures that include cutting official spending and increasing employees' pension contributions.

The employees say corruption and mismanagement caused the crisis, and they have been protesting vociferously outside Rio's state parliament as it debates "the package of evils."

Jerson Carneiro, a professor of administrative law and management at Rio's Ibmec business school, blames the problems on the way Rio has always been run - a system he says is based on cozy ties among business leaders, politicians and government officials, rewarding corruption and breeding inefficiency.

"It's crony capitalism," Carneiro said. "If the state was a company, it would be in bankruptcy proceedings."

To many, the embodiment of that system is former governor Sérgio Cabral. In 2012, photos were published showing him and other government officials, some wearing napkins on their heads, partying at the Ritz Hotel in Paris three years earlier with a powerful Brazilian businessman. When street protests swept Brazil in 2013, a protest camp was set up near Cabral's apartment in Rio's affluent Leblon neighborhood.

On Nov. 16, former governor Anthony Garotinho - who had published those photos of Cabral on his blog - was arrested on vote-buying allegations. Next morning, Cabral was arrested with 10 others, accused of heading a group that pocketed $66 million in bribes on state government contracts - including for the renovation of Rio's Maracana Stadium, where the 2014 World Cup final and Olympic opening and closing ceremonies were held.

Demonstrators wearing napkins on their heads and waving champagne bottles cheered as Cabral was driven through the gates of Rio's Bangu prison.

Cabral continues to be a target for demonstrators, including those taking part in Tuesday's violent protests against de Souza's austerity plan.

"Sérgio Cabral stole everything," said a firefighter, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of official reprisal.

Prosecutors say that during Cabral's tenure, from 2007 through 2014, he and his wife, Adriana Ancelmo, a lawyer who also is now in jail, spent millions on items including a luxury boat, art works and fine jewelry. That some of the money allegedly came from bribes related to the Maracana Stadium renovation has merely confirmed the skepticism of many Cariocas.

To further sour the post-Olympic mood, it has emerged this year that under Cabral and "Big Foot," (formerly Cabral's vice governor), the Rio government gave billions of dollars in tax exemptions to scores of companies - including jewelry companies that made personal deliveries to the Cabrals and construction companies accused of paying bribes. According to the state's Court of Accounts, jewelry firms alone saved $68 million by way of tax breaks from 2008 through 2013.

Not all the tax breaks were illicit. Brazilian states use them to compete with each other to encourage industries to move to their areas; Nissan, for example, built a car factory in Rio in 2014 after it got an exemption. A spokesman for the Rio government, commenting anonymously in accordance with internal regulations, said the exemptions helped many sectors and that tax revenue from the jewelry industry rose as smaller companies operating informally went legal.

Other exemptions are harder to justify, such as those given to some "termas," or spas; in Rio, these establishments are thinly disguised brothels.

Vinicius Cavalleiro, a state prosecutor in Rio investigating as much as $55 billion worth of exemptions granted from 2007 to 2015, described the practice as "a big cause of the state's fiscal imbalance." In October, a judge prohibited the state from granting further tax breaks.

Police officers, demoralized by salary delays, also blame the state's financial straits for a continuing surge in violent crime.

In 2008, a project was launched to expel armed drug gangs from the desperately poor communities in Rio known as favelas. Police bases were installed, and efforts were made to improve social conditions. But the improvements failed to materialize, and the project is foundering.

Short on arms and ammunition, the precarious police bases face regular assaults from drug gangs determined to recover lost territory, said Cpl. Anderson Valentim, an officer stationed in the Complexo do Alemao favela, where gunfights occur daily.

"We are fighting an enemy that has superior numbers and superior arms," he said.

On Nov. 19, during an operation in the City of God favela, a police helicopter crashed, killing four officers. Many assumed the local drug gang had shot the helicopter down, although a preliminary probe found no evidence to support that.

Next day in a nearby patch of woods, relatives found the bodies of seven men that they said showed signs of an execution-style killing. Some of the men had police records, but relatives denied they were involved in the drug trade. Police say they are investigating.

Whether or not the incident is found to have been a revenge killing by police, it underscores the pessimism that continues to pervade Rio. Improved security was one of the benefits the city was promised before the World Cup and the Olympics.

"The perception was that things were getting better," said Cano, the sociologist. "Now the perception is everything is deteriorating."

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

The emerging outlines of a Jekyll and Hyde presidency

By michael gerson
The emerging outlines of a Jekyll and Hyde presidency

WASHINGTON -- What are we seeing in Donald Trump’s presidential transition so far? The emerging outlines of a bipolar presidency.

I’m not attempting a clinical diagnosis here. Maybe a better description is a Jekyll and Hyde administration. The president-elect is alternately making good choices (such as Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary) and horrible ones (Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development); sounding themes of national reconciliation and sounding crazed on Twitter; attempting magnanimity (opposing prosecution for his vanquished opponent, Hillary Clinton) and rubbing it in (attacking presidential rival Evan McMullin and basking once again in chants of “Lock her up!”).

Trump’s personnel choices seem designed to either reward personal loyalty or embody a certain perception of competence -- the competence of generals who know how to give orders and of billionaires who know how to make money. Failed politicians, in this view, need to be schooled. Never mind that the habits of command are not immediately transferrable to some of the main tasks in a democracy -- persuasion, compromise and public policy innovation.

This is clearly the direction of strong-hand democracy; just give the real leaders free reign and a few years. A little less James Madison and little more Lee Kuan Yew. But it is Mr. Madison who still sets the rules, making a snap-your-fingers-and-demand-results approach to leadership more likely to end in frustration and failure than in lasting damage to American institutions.

Meanwhile, this theory of the Trump presidency leaves a policy environment more fluid and open than any in my political lifetime. Apart from a few vivid campaign promises on immigration and infrastructure -- which have also been renegotiated since the election -- Trump has radical freedom of action. He owes no one, holds no definite ideology and will be forgiven even the worst heresies by his supporters (at least for the moment).

So, for example, it is possible that Trump will pursue the most ambitious, controversial redefinition of the federal role in helping the poor since Lyndon Johnson -- block-granting Medicaid and most other welfare spending, and tying the remainder to work requirements. Or Trump could find this contentious, time-consuming debate a distraction from other priorities. He could choose, instead, to give governors more flexibility on Medicaid requirements, block-grant a few programs, increase the earned income tax credit, experiment with enterprise zones and push for his daughter Ivanka’s child-care and maternity-leave proposals.

There has been little real guidance from Trump himself. He has said that the welfare system provides incentives for “sitting there and doing nothing” (which is not really true of many programs). Referring to health care for the poor, Trump told Dr. Oz: “There is a percentage, a fairly large percentage that can’t afford it. ... We’re going to take care of that through the Medicaid system. ... We’re not going to let people die on the streets.” His instincts seem mixed.

And Trump’s convictions on welfare policy may not even matter much in the end. His large tax cuts and commitment to a balanced budget may force nondefense discretionary spending -- only about 16 percent of the budget -- to be a repeated blood donor, until it is pasty white and weak.

The openness of Trump’s policy options, however, is currently a boon to lobbyists, consultants and advocates of all stripes. If ever talking with the right person at the right time with the right message has been important, it is now. Almost nothing has yet been ruled in or ruled out. Tealeaf reading is at a premium. But who can possibility predict what will be in President Trump’s budget address to Congress in February? Who can know what Trump does not know yet himself? In the period between now and then, the identity of a presidential administration will be determined, in many areas from scratch.

How Trump’s manner of doing business will translate to the office of the president is equally difficult to predict. He has shown a willingness to violate norms of diplomacy and dignity normally enforced by a sense of priority. He seems caught in a cycle: a few days on message, then a conspiratorial or bullying statement or tweet, then a scramble by Republicans to solicit intervention from “the family,” who give the president-elect the political equivalent of lithium and get him back on message before the next manic stage. Republicans are now finding strategic brilliance in this attempt to keep the whole world off balance. But what happens when President Trump can truly throw the whole world off balance?

Michael Gerson’s email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

The force behind populism everywhere? Immigration.

By fareed zakaria
The force behind populism everywhere? Immigration.

NEW YORK -- A joke among journalists is that we are taught to count: “one, two, trend.” But at this point, I think it’s fair to say we are witnessing a populist trend around the world. The real question is, what is fueling its extraordinary rise?

Almost a month after Donald Trump’s election, Europeans went to the polls, with mixed results. Italians voted against everything -- the establishment, the European Union and, by extension, their centrist, reform-minded prime minister, Matteo Renzi. Austrian voters, by contrast, rejected the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer. But it was still startling that his Freedom Party -- whose first leader was a former Nazi minister and SS member -- received 46 percent of the national vote. Over the last few years, almost everywhere in Europe -- from France to the Netherlands to Germany -- right-wing populist parties have gained ground.

In most of the continent, populists still seem unlikely to take power because they cannot replicate Trump’s success in getting control of a mainstream political party. European parties are internally strong and have mechanisms to block such a hostile takeover. American political parties, on the other hand, since the advent of primaries, have become nothing more than vessels for popular politicians. Once it was clear that Trump would win the Republican nomination, the party structure folded and became his executive arm.

Supporters of Trump and other populist movements often point to economics as the key to their success -- the slow recovery, wage stagnation, the erosion of manufacturing jobs, and rising inequality. These are clearly powerful contributing factors. But it is striking that we see right-wing populism in Sweden, which is doing well economically; in Germany, where manufacturing remains robust; and in France, where workers have many protections. Here in America, exit polls showed that the majority of voters who were most concerned about the economy cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton.

The one common factor present everywhere, however, is immigration. In fact, one statistical analysis of European Union countries found that more immigrants invariably means more populists. According to the study, if you extrapolate from current trends, “as the percentage of immigrants approaches approximately 22 percent, the percentage of right-wing populist voters exceeds 50 percent.” Hostility to immigration has been a core theme of every one of these populist parties.

One way to test this theory is to note that countries without large-scale immigration, like Japan, have not seen the same rise of right-wing populism. Another interesting case is Spain, a country that has taken in many immigrants but mostly Spanish-speaking Latinos who are easier to assimilate. While you see traditional left-wing economic populism in Spain, you do not see right-wing nationalist movements.

The backlash against immigration is rooted in fact. As I pointed out in a Foreign Affairs essay (written in September before Trump’s victory), we are living in an age of mass migration. In the last three or four decades, Western societies have seen large influxes of people from different lands and cultures. In 1970, foreign-born people made up under 5 percent of America’s population; today they are about 14 percent. The rise is even sharper in most European countries, home to 76 million international migrants, coming mostly from Africa and the Middle East recently. Austria, for example, took in almost 100,000 immigrants last year -- adding 1 percent to its population in 2015 alone.

This much change can be unsettling. For most of human history, people lived, worked and died within a few miles of the place they were born. But in recent decades, hundreds of millions of people from poorer countries have moved to wealthier ones. This reflects an economic reality. Rich countries have declining birth rates and need labor; poor countries have millions who seek better lives. But it produces anxiety, unease and a cultural backlash that we are witnessing across the Western world.

What does this mean for the future? Western societies will have to better manage immigration. They should also place much greater emphasis on assimilation. Canada should be a role model. It has devised smart policies on both fronts, with high levels of (skilled) immigration, strong assimilation, and no major recoil.

Eventually, Western societies will be able to adjust to this new feature of globalization. Look at young people in Europe and America, the vast majority of whom deeply value the benefits of diversity and seek to live in an open and connected world. That’s the future. We just have to ensure we don’t wreck the world before we get there.

Fareed Zakaria’s email address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Counterterrorism agencies tangle over turf

By david ignatius
Counterterrorism agencies tangle over turf

WASHINGTON -- Given the turf wars and interagency rivalries that have long surrounded U.S. special operations forces, President Obama probably didn’t do the commandoes any favor when he delivered his last big military speech at the base in Tampa where they’re headquartered.

Obama’s visit Tuesday to MacDill Air Force Base, home of U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, was in many ways an endorsement of its mission to combat terrorism. For all Obama’s wariness about using conventional military power, he has embraced the role of “covert commander in chief,” most notably in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Obama’s Tampa trip came as the Pentagon and CIA were buzzing about what critics claimed was a power grab by the Joint Special Operations Command, the super-secret group that manages most military counterterrorism strikes. The flap centered on a Nov. 25 Washington Post story that said JSOC had received “expanded power to track, plan and potentially launch attacks on terrorist cells around the globe.”

Military officials deny that there’s any formal expansion of authority for JSOC or its parent organization, SOCOM. But the clandestine military unit has indeed become Obama’s preferred instrument for killing terrorists, filling a role once played mainly by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. The Trump administration will doubtless make its own judgments about the respective missions.

JSOC’s role is rarely discussed publicly. But Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opened a window when he said in an Oct. 25 press conference in Paris: “We have put our Joint Special Operations Command in the lead of countering [the Islamic State’s] external operations. And we have already achieved very significant results both in reducing the flow of foreign fighters and removing [Islamic State] leaders from the battlefield.”

The U.S. assaults cited by Carter have been far more deadly than is generally recognized. Military sources say that drone strikes have killed between 20,000 and 25,000 Islamic State operatives in Iraq and Syria. U.S. conventional attacks have killed about 30,000 more, for a total “body count” of over 50,000.

The interagency flap about SOCOM’s “expanded” role is said to have begun after a National Security Council “deputies committee” meeting, where a White House official asked which agency was targeting “external operations” by Islamic State operatives. A senior military official answered that it was JSOC. This apparently triggered protests that the CIA should have such coordinating responsibility.

The CIA’s concern was apparently roused partly by a JSOC intelligence fusion operation, known as “Gallant Phoenix,” in an Arab country bordering Syria. That effort, begun about two years ago, now has more than a dozen member countries. It has fed information about foreign fighters to counterterrorism officials in Spain, Germany, France, Portugal and other countries, military sources said.

The CIA and JSOC both conduct roughly the same number of drone flights every day. But the sources said the military’s drones conducted more than 20,000 strikes over the last year, in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, while the CIA is said to have struck less than a dozen targets over that same period.

Ever since the bin Laden raid, special operations forces may have become too visible for their own good. The celebrity of Seal Team 6 and other special units spawned jealousy from conventional military units that felt their role was being ignored. This sort of intra-military rivalry toward commando units has existed ever since Gen. Maxwell Taylor created the “green berets” as a counterinsurgency force during the early 1960s.

The CIA oversaw much of America’s drone warfare during the first half of Obama’s presidency, when it was targeting al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. But the agency’s focus on such counterterrorism “direct action” appears to have diminished over the past several years.

A U.S. official said the agency “continues to play a very significant role in CT efforts,” including targeting Islamic State external operations.

Obama’s Tampa speech highlighted his preference for special operations forces and their “small-footprint” tactics, as opposed to big conventional assaults. He said that the U.S. had attacked Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria “not with American battalions but with local forces backed by our equipment and our advisers and, importantly, our Special Forces.”

Obama took credit, too, for the drone attacks that have proven so deadly against extremist targets. “In a dangerous world, terrorists seek out places where it’s often impossible to capture them ... and that means the best option for us to get those terrorists becomes a targeted strike.”

One unlikely legacy of Obama’s presidency is that he made the secret, once-impermissible tactic of targeted killing the preferred tool of American counterterrorism policy.

David Ignatius’ email address is davidignatius@washpost.com.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Kellyanne Conway plunges into the Mommy Wars

By ruth marcus
Kellyanne Conway plunges into the Mommy Wars

WASHINGTON -- As if she didn’t have enough on her hands with the president-elect, Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway has plunged full-force into a topic at least as emotionally charged: the Mommy Wars.

Speaking at a Politico “Women Rule” event Wednesday, Conway cited her four young children as the reason for declining a White House job.

“My children are 12, 12, 8 and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside,” she said. “They have to come first and those are very fraught ages.”

When the possibility of an administration role came up in her talks with senior officials, Conway said, they would say, “’I know you have four kids but ...’ I said, ‘There’s nothing that comes after the “but” that makes any sense to me so don’t even try.’ Like what is the ‘but’? But they’ll eat Cheerios for the rest of the day? Nobody will brush their teeth again until I get home?”

The question for “the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House,” Conway said, “isn’t: ‘Would you take the job?’ ... The question is: ‘Would you want your wife to? Would you want the mother of your children to?’”

OK, this is the wrong question but not necessarily the wrong answer.

It’s the wrong question because the test shouldn’t be whether the men would want their wives to take on the burden of a White House role. It’s whether their wives would want to.

It’s not necessarily the wrong answer because, as much as we should insist that the decision about how to juggle work and family should not be dictated by gender, it would be unrealistic to think that gender does not play a role in many women’s choices.

Is that a matter of biology and inherent difference between the sexes? Is it a consequence of longtime societal arrangements and cultural expectations that are evolving, however slowly? I don’t know and I’m not sure the answer matters to anybody’s -- any mother’s -- individual decision-making.

It didn’t matter to mine. I have half the number of children as Conway and, when they were young, was confronting a job far less all-consuming than one in the White House -- a workplace where, as former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once said, “The only family we’re going to be good for is the first family.”

Still, and completely contrary to pre-pregnancy expectations, I found myself wanting to scale back after my daughters were born.

I did, with help from an accommodating employer. I took myself out of an editing role because I could not envision a family-friendly future on that track. I became an editorial writer, then a columnist, and worked every permutation of part-time work imaginable: three days a week, four short days so I could pick the girls up at school.

Now the nest is empty, and I am back full time plus. It was the right decision for me, and for my family. And if Conway were my friend, I would advise her to make the choice that feels right, but also that the cliches are true: The time with the kids goes so fast. You can’t get it back.

The Mommy Wars rage so fiercely because the emotions they evoke hit so close to home. The stay-at-home moms or mommy-trackers feel disrespected; the multitasking Superwomen feel even more judged, as Bad Mommies. Each side is inclined to feel slighted by the other.

Which is why Conway’s comments, especially in the raw aftermath of the Trump campaign, were destined to incite. Conway, Suzanne Monyak wrote for Slate, “seems to believe that it is the onus of the woman in a family to sacrifice her career opportunities so that her husband may have his. Even more troubling, Conway implies that (BEG ITAL)no(END ITAL) good mother should take on such a job -- an attitude that feels ripped out of ‘Mad Men.’”

But you don’t have to be stuck in the ‘60s to express queasiness about taking such a demanding job. And Conway didn’t say that wives should scale back to accommodate husbands so much as she seemed to recognize the current reality that, when something’s got to give, it’s the mom who’s going to do the giving.

In a perfect world, sure, maybe, the division of family labor would be perfectly equal. Meanwhile, as Conway said, “we still have to make choices and there are limits.” If her decision is to put time with kids over time in the Oval Office, that seems as entitled to respect as if she had chosen the opposite.

Ruth Marcus’ email address is ruthmarcus@washpost.com.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Tweets and theater entertain, but Congress is the main event

By charles krauthammer
Tweets and theater entertain, but Congress is the main event

WASHINGTON -- The most amusing part of the Trump transition has been watching its effortless confounding of the media, often in fewer than 140 characters. One morning, after a Fox News report on lefty nuttiness at some obscure New England college -- a flag burning that led a more-contemptible-than-usual campus administration to take down the school’s own American flag -- Donald Trump tweets that flag burners should go to jail or lose their citizenship.

An epidemic of constitutional chin tugging and civil libertarian hair pulling immediately breaks out. By the time the media have exhausted their outrage over the looming abolition of free speech, judicial supremacy and affordable kale, Trump has moved on. The tempest had a shorter half-life than the one provoked in August 2015 by a Trump foray into birthright citizenship.

Trump so thoroughly owns the political stage today that the word Clinton seems positively quaint and Barack Obama, who happens to be president of the United States, is totally irrelevant. Obama gave a major national security address on Tuesday. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s son got more attention.

Trump has mesmerized the national media not just with his elaborate Cabinet-selection production, by now Broadway-ready. But with a cluster of equally theatrical personal interventions that by traditional standards seem distinctly unpresidential.

It’s a matter of size. They seem small for a president. Preventing the shutdown of a Carrier factory in Indiana. Announcing, in a contextless 45-second surprise statement, a major Japanese investment in the U.S. Calling for cancellation of the new Air Force One to be built by Boeing.

Pretty small stuff. It has the feel of a Cabinet undersecretary haggling with a contractor or a state governor drumming up business on a Central Asian trade mission. Or of candidate Trump selling Trump steaks and Trump wine in that bizarre victory speech after the Michigan primary.

Presidents don’t normally do such things. It shrinks them. But then again, Trump is not yet president. And the point here is less the substance than the symbolism.

The Carrier coup was meant to demonstrate the kind of concern for the working man that gave Trump the Rust Belt victories that carried him to the presidency. The Japanese SoftBank announcement was a down payment on his promise to be the “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” (A slightly dubious claim: After all, how instrumental was Trump to that investment? Surely a financial commitment of that magnitude would have been planned long before Election Day.) And Boeing was an ostentatious declaration that he would be the zealous guardian of government spending that you would expect from a crusading outsider.

What appears as random Trumpian impulsiveness has a logic to it. It’s a continuation of the campaign. Trump is acutely sensitive to his legitimacy problem, as he showed in his tweet claiming to have actually won the popular vote, despite trailing significantly in the official count. His best counter is approval ratings. In August, the Bloomberg poll had him at 33 percent. He’s now up to 50 percent. Still nowhere near Obama’s stratospheric 79 percent at this point in 2008, but a substantial improvement nonetheless.

The mini-interventions are working but there’s a risk for Trump in so personalizing his coming presidency. It’s a technique borrowed from Third World strongmen who specialize in demonstrating their personal connection to the ordinary citizen. In a genuine democracy, however, the endurance of any political support depends on the larger success of the country. And that doesn’t come from Carrier-size fixes. It comes from policy -- policy that fundamentally changes the structures and alters the trajectory of the nation.

“I alone can fix it,” Trump ringingly declared in his convention speech. Indeed, alone he can do Carrier and SoftBank and Boeing. But ultimately he must deliver on tax reform, health care, economic growth and nationwide job creation. That requires Congress.

The 115th is Republican and ready to push through the legislation that gives life to the promises. On his part, Trump needs to avoid needless conflict. The Republican leadership has already signaled strong opposition on some issues, such as tariffs for job exporters. Nonetheless, there is enough common ground between Trump and his congressional majority to have an enormously productive 2017. The challenge will be to stay within the bounds of the GOP consensus.

Trump will continue to tweet and the media will continue take the bait. Highly entertaining but it is a sideshow. Congress is where the fate of the Trump presidency will be decided.

Charles Krauthammer’s email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post Writers Group

Teacher training shows signs of improvement but still has much homework to do

By esther j. cepeda
Teacher training shows signs of improvement but still has much homework to do

CHICAGO -- As sure as Earth rotates around the sun, college professors condemn high schools for freshmen who can’t write decent papers, high school teachers blame middle schools for passing barely literate students along, and middle school teachers tsk-tsk elementary school teachers for kids who aren’t comfortable with the basics of writing and arithmetic.

Elementary school teachers would be forgiven for blaming their teacher preparation programs for not adequately equipping them to lay the foundations of academic achievement for their young charges.

According to the latest National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) rating of 875 of the nation’s undergraduate programs that prepare elementary school teachers, only 5 percent require teacher candidates to take sufficient courses in literature, science and history/social studies.

The subject of math is an apt example: Only 13 percent of programs require coverage of topics deemed critical by mathematicians.

“Elementary school education is foundational, and if you want to understand how important elementary math is, look no further than today’s PISA scores,” said Kate Walsh, NCTQ’s president, referring to new figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment. They found that 15-year-old U.S. students score below the global average on math.

“If we’re trying to figure out why kids are performing so badly in mathematics,” Walsh added, “there’s no subject more reliant on foundational skills from kindergarten on up. Yet we’re looking at what programs do in math and they’re all over the map; they do not expect elementary school teachers to master topics found in the elementary curriculum. And if you have a weak grasp, it may be that you are able to solve a fraction but not able to teach it.”

The same can be said about science, history and literature. Though 83 percent of surveyed teacher preparation programs require a course in composition, only half require at least two courses in literature and composition, a paltry amount for such wide-ranging subjects. Just three in five require a course in early or modern American history and only 12 percent require courses in at least two science topics.

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want the people with the least amount of subject-area knowledge tasked with giving students a foundation in core content areas, but it’s actually rational.

In order to have the expertise needed to pass certification tests in the core subjects, one has to have studied them extensively. But there is little incentive to do so when so few teacher programs require them and state certification exams for elementary school teachers don’t test for deep content area knowledge at all.

And then there’s the cultural aspect: The prevailing sentiment in education circles seems to be that the most important aspects of teaching are how much you can love your students and how committed to social justice your educational philosophy is, rather than how academically accomplished or pedagogically prepared you are.

NCTQ’s report did uncover one bright spot -- reading instruction. Today, 39 percent of undergraduate programs for aspiring elementary school teachers (up from 29 percent in 2014) incorporate content from all five components of early reading instruction -- comprehension, vocabulary, phonics, fluency and phonemic awareness -- that research has determined are essential.

“It’s still awful, but it’s a full 10 percentage points higher than it was two years ago,” said Walsh, “and I’m very heartened by the fact that more programs are paying attention to evidence-based research in reading instruction.”

There is much work to be done, however, with obvious upgrades necessary in the crucial areas of providing highly qualified mentors for student teachers (93 percent of programs accept mentors chosen by a district without much vetting) and offering more in-school observation and feedback to gauge effectiveness in teaching and classroom management.

Still, this latest batch of research on teacher preparation programs validates the sometimes-feared adage in education that what is measured improves.

“We went into this with a lot of people saying ‘You’ll never get higher ed to pay attention to these findings,’ but the improvements we observed show they are willing to make changes,” said Walsh. “It’s not as fast as anyone would like, but there are clear signs of progress.”

If teacher training programs can be as eager to better themselves as most of the teachers I know, we should see the quality of preparation improve fairly quickly.

Esther Cepeda’s email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

The sharpest pens in the industry serve up points of view to chew on.

Bury your dead-tired strips and grab something fresh, meaningful and hilarious.

Serious therapy and serious fun to give readers a break from breaking news.

Ofrecemos artículos de los columnistas más destacados del Washington Post Writers Group en español.