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Weekly Update 12-18 Oct 20

Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.

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Top Clips

New study shows Republican-leaning counties hardest hit in recent weeks.

By Joel Achenbach and Jacqueline Dupree, Washington Post

For the first time since early August, the number of newly reported coronavirus infections in the United States on Thursday topped 60,000. More than 36,000 people are hospitalized nationally with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, amid a long-feared autumnal rise of infections and serious illnesses.

As I watched the first Trump-Biden debate, a vision popped into my head. I imagined that the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party had also gathered to watch the debate — but its members decided to make it more entertaining by playing a drinking game. Every time Donald Trump said something ridiculous or embarrassing for America, each Politburo member had to down a shot of whiskey. Within a half-hour, all 25 members were stone-cold drunk.

By Jason DeParle, New York Times

Two new studies show the effect of the emergency $2 trillion package known as the Cares Act and what happened when the money ran out. After an ambitious expansion of the safety net in the spring saved millions of people from poverty, the aid is now largely exhausted and poverty has returned to levels higher than before the coronavirus crisis, two new studies have found.

By Peggy Noonan, WSJ The Pelosi interview and the interrogation of Judge Barrett, who will bring a little sanity to the capital. Everyone’s insane now. I mean everyone in Washington. The great challenge of the era is to maintain your intellectual poise under pressure. Washington this week looked like a vast system fail.

By Josephine Wolff, for the NYT

In March, several cybercrime groups rushed to reassure people that they wouldn’t target hospitals and other health care facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The operators of several prominent strains of ransomware all announced they would not target hospitals, and some of them even promised to decrypt the data of health care organizations for free if one was accidentally infected by their malware. But any cybersecurity strategy that relies on the moral compunctions of criminals is doomed to fail, particularly when it comes to protecting the notoriously vulnerable computer systems of hospitals.

By Marietje Schaake, for Foreign Affairs This past summer, a host of public organizations as varied as the Norwegian parliament, the New Zealand stock exchange, and the Vatican all came under attack. No shots were fired, no doors knocked down, no bombs exploded. Instead, the attackers managed to intrude into these institutions’ internal networks in attempts to commit espionage, disrupt daily affairs, or ransom or blackmail victims. Incidents of this kind are just the tip of the iceberg. Cyberattacks are constantly taking place, and many intrusions go unnoticed and unreported. In democratic countries, only intelligence agencies and private companies can reach a detailed understanding of cyberattacks and the risks they pose. Everyone else must scramble for information about what actually happens below the surface of the digital world. 

By Oriana Pawlyk,

A new military-led study unveiled Thursday shows there is a low risk for passengers traveling aboard large commercial aircraft to contract an airborne virus such as COVID-19 -- and it doesn't matter where they sit on the airplane. Researchers concluded that because of sophisticated air particle filtration and ventilation systems on board the Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft -- the planes tested for the study -- airborne particles within the cabin have a very short lifespan, according to defense officials with U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Air Mobility Command, which spearheaded the study.

This pivotal moment isn’t just the result of four years of Donald Trump. It’s the culmination of 50 years of social decay. The Upswing,” a remarkable new book by Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett, puts this situation in stark relief. A careful work of social science, the book looks at American life from about 1870 to today across a range of sectors that are usually analyzed in separate academic silos.

By Will Thorne, Variety

Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump appeared in directly competing town halls on Thursday night, after the President dropped out of the second debate. Trump’s hourlong appearance on NBC, which drew criticism across the industry and even an angry letter from top talent and showrunners who work with NBCU, appears to be trailing Biden’s 90-minute session with ABC in the ratings, at least according to early numbers.

By Betsy Klein, CNN

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican and outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, wrote in Ronald Reagan for president when he cast his 2020 ballot. "I know it's simply symbolic. It's not going to change the outcome in my state. But I thought it was important to just cast a vote that showed the kind of person I'd like to see in office," Hogan told The Washington Post in an interview released Friday. The vote makes Hogan one of the highest-profile Republicans who is not supporting Trump for reelection, though his decision to not back Democratic nominee Joe Biden could be seen as a way for him to refocus attention on his ongoing criticism of Trump and maintain standing in the Republican Party in case he decides to continue his political career beyond his current term in office.

The multiday spectacle gave viewers little understanding of the most important issue the Court will rule on: how Americans vote and whether those votes matter.

By Jane Chong, The Atlantic

What Americans saw unfold on their screens this past week was a confirmation battle spotlighting familiar partisan divides. What they deserved was an open reckoning with what Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s elevation means for the country’s political and constitutional architecture.

Three senior Trump advisers who recently talked to campaign manager Bill Stepien walked away believing he thinks they will lose. The big picture: The Trump campaign is filled with internal blaming and pre-spinning of a potential loss, accelerating a dire mood that's driven by a daily barrage of bleak headlines, campaign and White House officials tell me.

SecDef again calls for increased defense spending in future budgets, but there's little indication budgets won't stay flat.

By Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

Just three weeks before a presidential election that could well decide his fate as Defense Secretary, Mark Esper delivered what amounted to a victory lap this afternoon, recounting successes in fixing the deep readiness hole the military had fallen into.

By James L. Jones, Former commandant of the Marine Corps, for The Atlantic

During my 40 years as a Marine officer, including nearly four years as commandant of the Marine Corps, I came to believe that one of the military’s most important missions is to lead the fight against hate, inequality, and injustice, both at home and overseas. The factors that divide Americans today pose a greater threat to the country than any foreign adversary does. For this reason, the Pentagon must respond forcefully to alarming evidence that white-supremacist groups and other extremist organizations might be seeping into the armed forces and targeting uniformed service members and veterans for recruitment, coveting their training in weapons and tactical knowledge.

By Stephen Wertheim, for the NYT

The next president, whoever he is, will not determine the future of America’s role in the world. Joe Biden does not recognize there is a problem. President Trump has no answers. Three decades into the “post-Cold War era,” still named for what preceded it, the United States possesses no widely shared, deeply felt purpose for vast global power. America’s armed dominance today occupies a position similar to that of liberal immigration, free trade or private health insurance a decade ago. Taken for granted by political elites, it is nonetheless ripe for challenge beneath the surface.

By Megan McArdle, Washington Post

Periodically, it seems that everyone in the public eye, even tech giants, has to rediscover the phenomenon known as the Streisand Effect — the hard way, as Twitter and Facebook are now doing.The Streisand Effect is named after showbiz legend Barbra Streisand, who noticed, in 2003, that photographer Kenneth Adelman had posted a picture of her Malibu home. Possibly you had never heard of Adelman or his many coastal photographs; most people hadn’t. Even fewer knew he’d photographed Streisand’s home. But they certainly knew after Streisand sued Adelman. Before the lawsuit, the images had only been downloaded six times, two of those by her own lawyers. Afterward, the image got hundreds of thousands of visits a month.

By Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNet

Investing in information warfare capabilities is as important as updating military platforms, according to Col. Myles Caggins, the director of public affairs for the U.S. Army’s III Corps. “Senior leaders need to embrace that public-communication warfare is important, and then have the policies that provide the resources to equip our words warriors and our soldiers with what they need,” he said during a virtual presentation Oct. 15 as part of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting.

The United States Isn’t Doomed to Lose the Information Wars

By Doowan Lee, for Foreign Policy

The stakes in this year’s U.S. presidential election are arguably higher than they were in 2016. Yet fears about foreign interference in U.S. elections have only grown in the past four years. Instead of traditional weapons, foreign adversaries are once again turning to social media in their attempts to undermine the upcoming election, and 2020 alone has seen a rash of disinformation about the coronavirus, political unrest, and election integrity. According to a new Gallup/Knight Foundation study, 4 in 5 Americans are concerned that false information will sway the vote in November.

By Alex Lazarow, for Harvard Business Review The world has changed. In the wake of Covid-19, and the global recession it has caused, business leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors are all girding for a long period of extremely challenging conditions in the global market. How can startups and innovators of all stripes survive in such conditions? Many are not prepared.

By Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic for Harvard Business Review When you are in the earliest stages of your career, there is no shortage of advice to help you navigate things like how to get hired, make a good impression, and fulfill your wildest job aspirations. But what is talked about less often is the advice that you actually shouldn’t follow, which turns out to be a lot of it.

By Ruth S. Barrett, The Atlantic

On paper, sloane, a buoyant, chatty, stay-at-home mom from Fairfield County, Connecticut, seems almost unbelievably well prepared to shepherd her three daughters through the roiling world of competitive youth sports. She played tennis and ran track in high school and has an advanced degree in behavioral medicine. She wrote her master’s thesis on the connection between increased aerobic activity and attention span. She is also versed in statistics, which comes in handy when she’s analyzing her eldest daughter’s junior-squash rating—and whiteboarding the consequences if she doesn’t step up her game. “She needs at least a 5.0 rating, or she’s going to Ohio State,” Sloane told me.

By AdFontes Media

This is the Media Bias Chart, in its latest iteration. It’s a unique way of laying out the complex media landscape in two dimensions: reliability, on the vertical axis, and bias, on the horizontal axis.The 4-minute video below provides an overview of what the Media Bias Chart is, where it came from, and what we will be doing to improve it in the future.


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