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Weekly Update 01-06 Mar 21

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

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Top Clips

3Cs in a Pod: Season 3 Ep8: 'Working Against Ourselves'

By Provision Advisors Hello and welcome to 3Cs in Pod from Provision Advisors, the podcast for and about the global communications environment. THE YEAR OF COVID. Well, here we are, back at March. It’s been a year of enduring a global pandemic and the question remains, what do we do now? The amount of loss is nothing less than catastrophic and we now find ourselves trying to get back to a semblance of what was. We’ll talk about it. Also, what has a year of COVID conditioned us to expect outdoors as the warmer spring months approach? Lastly, let’s talk about Covid communication failures and successes during the past year. Who got it right and who may have dropped the ball?

Where Are We in Finding the Coronavirus’s Origin?

By Jason Gale, Bloomberg

More than a year after Covid-19 touched off the worst pandemic in more than a century, scientists have yet to determine its origins. The closest related viruses to SARS-CoV-2 were found in bats more than 1,000 miles from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease erupted in late 2019. Initially, cases were tied to a fresh food market and possibly the wildlife sold there. Other theories allege the virus accidentally escaped from a nearby research laboratory, or entered China via imported frozen food. Amid all the posturing and finger-pointing, governments and scientists agree that deciphering the creation story is key to reducing the risk of future pandemics.

Economists Weigh In On Covid-19 And Inequality

By Teresa Ghilarducci, Forbes

Covid-19 is rubbing “salt in the wound of inequality,” I heard Dr. Utsha Khatri from the University of Pennsylvania say on NPR in March 2020, an observation many economists have found as the profession focuses on the sad unequal effects of the Covid-19 disease and the pandemic-induced recession. Race, income, and gender inequalities have gotten worse and new ones have been created in employment, schooling, death, evictions and debt. I summarize some of the most important findings so far.

Sick Days Don’t Look So Good Now That You Can Work From Home

By Sarah Green Carmichael, Bloomberg

A few months back, it seemed as if the coronavirus pandemic would kill off presenteeism—you know, showing up at work with a sniffle or cough to prove your value or ensure you get your paycheck. Companies that didn’t offer paid sick leave were sure to wise up, realizing it was madness to create incentives for workers to spread germs on the job, and Type A workaholics would see that putting the entire office at risk of infection is more selfish than selfless. As it turns out, presenteeism just got a new address: the kitchen table. “You’re expected to be always accessible, because where else could you be?” says Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow. “There’s nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.”

Might the pandemic pave the way for a universal basic income?

A true UBI seems far off. But more experimentation is likely

By The Economist Staff

When Andrew Yang began his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, his proposal for a “Freedom Dividend”—monthly cash payments of $1,000 to be paid to all Americans—distinguished him among a crowded field as an outsider and an unorthodox thinker. Nearly two years later, as Mr Yang leads the race for mayor of New York City, his plan to provide cash to half a million New Yorkers feels far less radical, and not just because it is much more modest than his idea for a national universal basic income (UBI).

How covid hastened the decline and fall of the U.S.-China relationship

By Josh Rogin, The Washington Post

Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 shattered a fragile understanding between Washington and Beijing and put the most important relationship of the 21st century in the hands of a novice. Trump had attacked China from the campaign trail and almost as soon as he entered office, he brought the long-simmering rivalry between the two countries to a full boil. Complicating the picture considerably, he also struck up a “friendship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping — and their private conversations would undermine his broader administration’s response to the historic challenge of a rising China. All the while, Trump’s advisers fought with each other to steer U.S. policy from within.

China tech has a chip on its shoulder

By Elizabeth Law, The Straits Times

When China's party leadership outlined short- and medium-term economic goals in its 14th Five Year Plan, it pledged to turn the nation into a technological powerhouse and move it towards developing self-reliance in tech. In the 142-page document released on Friday (March 5), the leadership said: "(The country will) take scientific and technological independence and self-reliance as the strategic support of national development... strengthen innovation-driven development strategy, improve the national innovation system, and accelerate the construction of a scientific and technological power."

Austin wants to pivot to China. But can he pay for it?

By Lara Seligman and Connor O’Brien, Politico

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is saying all the right things to make China hawks happy. He told lawmakers that countering Beijing is a top priority. He tapped a well-respected Asia expert to give him advice. He even started up a task force to look at how the department can do a better job dealing with China. But the Pentagon’s pivot away from the Middle East and toward China, something the two previous administrations tried to do with varying degrees of success, will soon face its first major test: the massive budget request the department is set to submit to Congress this spring.

China Is Not Ten Feet Tall

How Alarmism Undermines American Strategy

By Ryan Hass, for Foreign Affairs China, the story goes, is inexorably rising and on the verge of overtaking a faltering United States. China has become the largest engine of global economic growth, the largest trading nation, and the largest destination for foreign investment. It has locked in major trade and investment deals in Asia and Europe and is using the Belt and Road Initiative—the largest development project of the twenty-first century—to win greater influence in every corner of the world. It is exporting surveillance tools, embedding technology in 5G communications networks, and using cyber-capabilities to both steal sensitive information and shape political discourse overseas. It is converting economic and political weight into military might, using civil-military fusion to develop cutting-edge capabilities and bullying its neighbors, including U.S. allies and partners such as Australia, India, and Taiwan. And at home, it is ruthlessly cracking down everywhere from Hong Kong to Xinjiang, with little concern about criticism from the United States and other democratic governments.

The Military’s Extremism Problem Is Our Problem

Yes, veterans were involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. But this isn’t just the military’s problem to solve.

By Michael Robinson and Kori Schake, for the New York Times

There is no doubt that there are far-right extremists among the military community: Service members and veterans have been arrested in connection with violent plots, including a plan by a Coast Guard lieutenant to attack prominent Democratic Party officials and a plot by two Marine Corps veterans to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Wade Michael Page, an Army veteran, killed six people at a Sikh temple in 2012.

Foreign Policy for Pragmatists

How Biden Can Learn From History in Real Time

By Gideon Rose, for Foreign Affairs Bismarck once said that the statesman’s task was to hear God’s footsteps marching through history and try to catch his coattails as he went past. U.S. President George W. Bush agreed. In his second inaugural address, Bush argued that “history has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.” President Donald Trump had a different take. His National Security Strategy claimed: “A central continuity in history is the contest for power. The present time period is no different.” The Bush team saw history moving forward along a sunlit path; the Trump team saw it as a gloomy eternal return. Those beliefs led them to care about different issues, expect different things of the world, and pursue different foreign policies.

Watchdog: Pentagon wasted millions on Italian planes later sold as scrap, no one held accountable

Neither a former U.S. general involved in the project nor the firm that sold the flawed planes has been held accountable, a watchdog report says.

By Dan De Luce, NBC News

The U.S. Air Force wasted $549 million on faulty Italian-made cargo planes for the Afghan government and no one involved in the deal has been held to account, according to a new report by a government watchdog. Neither a former U.S. Air Force general who was heavily involved in the project nor the company that sold the flawed aircraft to the Pentagon has faced prosecution over the program, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in the report obtained by NBC News.

Listen: Defense & Aerospace Podcast [Washington Roundtable Mar 05, 21]

On this Washington Roundtable episode of the Defense & Aerospace Report Podcast, sponsored by Bell: — Update on Biden administration efforts to fill presidentially appointed, Senate confirmed jobs — Budget outlook as the administration worked first-year guidance and outyear planning including pressure on acquisition programs — A look at the administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance and Defense Secretary Austin’s Message to the Force — Administration’s relationship with key lawmakers as they move to revamp Authorization of Military Force legislation — Key Chinese meetings as Adm. Phil Davidson, the US Indo-Pacific commander, warns about America’s declining ability to deter Beijing from moving against Taiwan and outlines his $27 billion multiyear Pacific Deterrence Initiative — The balanced Biden approach to solving international problems, including returning Iran to the nuclear negotiating table

Microsoft Pushes Urgent Fixes Overnight As Threat Actors Compromise Exchange Servers Worldwide

By Brad D. Williamson, Breaking Defense Microsoft urgently updated its free Exchange server Indicators of Compromise tool and released emergency alternative mitigation measures overnight as the extent of damage globally from four recently disclosed zero-day vulnerabilities becomes clearer. The IoC tool can be used to scan Exchange server log files to identify whether they are compromised. The emergency alternative mitigations, which are only partial and not considered the best fix, can be taken temporarily by organizations unable to immediately patch the four Exchange vulnerabilities that are being actively exploited in the wild. The severity of the vulnerabilities, as well as the widespread use of Exchange servers globally, prompted Microsoft to release out-of-band patches on Mar. 2.

The Atlantic Ocean, Subtle Shifts Hint at Dramatic Dangers

The warming atmosphere is causing an arm of the powerful Gulf Stream to weaken, some scientists fear.

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff and Jeremy White, The New York Times

It’s one of the mightiest rivers you will never see, carrying some 30 times more water than all the world’s freshwater rivers combined. In the North Atlantic, one arm of the Gulf Stream breaks toward Iceland, transporting vast amounts of warmth far northward, by one estimate supplying Scandinavia with heat equivalent to 78,000 times its current energy use. Without this current — a heat pump on a planetary scale — scientists believe that great swaths of the world might look quite different.


Massive investment in social studies and civics education proposed to address eroding trust in democratic institutions

By Joe Heim, The Washington Post

It has been a bad 12 months for the practice of civics in America. The U.S. Capitol attacked by thugs. An alleged plot to kidnap a state governor. Bogus claims of widespread election fraud. Violent protests in the streets. Death threats against public health officials. And a never-ending barrage of anger and misinformation on social media directed at, and by, politicians, leaders, pundits and an increasingly bitter and frustrated populace. As the battles have raged, trust in institutions — government, media, the law — has plummeted. So how did we get here? And how do we get out?

Targeting State Restrictions, House Passes Landmark Voting Rights Expansion

The omnibus voting, ethics and campaign finance bill would roll back barriers to voting enacted by Republican statehouses, but it faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

By Nicholas Fandos, The New York Times

House Democrats pushed through a sweeping expansion of federal voting rights on Wednesday over unified Republican opposition, opening a new front in a raging national debate about elections aimed at countering G.O.P. attempts to clamp down on ballot access. The bill, adopted 220 to 210 mostly along party lines, would constitute the most significant enhancement of federal voting protections since the 1960s if it became law. It aims to impose new national requirements weakening restrictive state voter ID laws, mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, make it harder to purge voter rolls and restore voting rights to former felons — changes that studies suggest would increase voter participation, especially by racial minorities.

Amanda Gorman Says Security Guard Confronted Her, Saying She Looked ‘Suspicious’

By Michael Levenson, The New York Times

Amanda Gorman, who became a national sensation when she delivered a stirring poem at President Biden’s inauguration in January, said on Friday that a security guard had followed her home and told her she looked suspicious. “A security guard tailed me on my walk home tonight,” Ms. Gorman wrote on Twitter. “He demanded if I lived there because ‘you look suspicious.’ I showed my keys & buzzed myself into my building. He left, no apology. This is the reality of black girls: One day you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”

Google’s approach to historically Black schools helps explain why there are few Black engineers in Big Tech

By Nitasha Tiku, The Washington Post

For years, Google’s recruiting department used a college ranking system to set budgets and priorities for hiring new engineers. Some schools such as Stanford University and MIT were predictably in the “elite” category, while state schools or institutions that churn out thousands of engineering grads annually, such as Georgia Tech, were assigned to “tier 1” or “tier 2.”

At Golf Channel, women say, sexism fuels a ‘boys club’ culture

By Ben Strauss, The Washington Post

Lisa Cornwell was at her parents’ house in Fayetteville, Ark., in January when she dialed into a popular golf podcast called “No Laying Up.” Her lawyer was on the line with her. “If you do this, you’re all in,” he’d told her beforehand. “That’s where I want to be,” she answered. Cornwell, a former anchor and reporter for the NBC-owned Golf Channel, wanted to talk, desperately, about her seven years working there. In 2020, she had filed a complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination and retaliation before leaving the network. Now, over the course of an hour-long interview, she alleged publicly being unfairly berated by male bosses, sidelined for standing up for colleagues and forced out for speaking up about her treatment.

Governor Cuomo Fumbles PR Response as Allegations Grow

By Sophie Maerowitz, PR News

In the last week, three women have come forward with sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a PR nightmare for his office to say the least. Lindsey Boylan, a former aide, was the first to air grievances against the governor. On Feb. 24, she published a Medium essay detailing two years of inappropriate behavior. Boylan painted a picture of workplace culture that enabled the governor’s inappropriate treatment of women—some of his closest female staffers facilitated the situation, she alleged.

A Journalist Reflects On Her Past Criminal Justice Reporting


In 2012, 19-year-old Brandon Spencer received a 40-year prison sentence for shooting into a crowd on the University of Southern California’s campus. At the time, Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks condemned him for the action that injured four people.

“Pull a gun, go to jail,” she wrote.

Nearly a decade later, Banks feels differently. In a recent column, she expressed her regret for writing that piece. She no longer recognizes the person who wrote it or believes how harsh she was to Spencer and his family.

Journalists face record levels of persecution globally

By Sara Fischer and Ursula Perano, Axios

Around the world, journalists are being targeted at record levels by despots, eager to silence the press. Why it matters: Experts worry that the United States' wavering stance on press freedoms over the past few years may have empowered autocrats looking to gain power and undermine democracy by going after journalists.

The Empty Religions of Instagram

How did influencers become our moral authorities?

By Leigh Stein, for the New York Times On Instagram, I follow 700 people, mostly women. One hundred of those women follow Glennon Doyle, whose memoir “Untamed” has been on the Times best-seller list for 51 weeks. Fans of Ms. Doyle’s gospel, an accessible combination of self-care, activism and tongue-in-cheek Christianity (“Jesus loves me, this I know, for he gave me Lexapro”), can worship at any time of day or night at the electric church of her Instagram feed. By replacing the rigid dogma of religion with the confessional lingua franca of social media, Ms. Doyle has become a charismatic preacher for women — like me — who aren’t even religious.

How PR pros see 2021 as a year of opportunity for DE&I

By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily

In the past year, many companies have put diversity, equity, and inclusion front and center, from statements about racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death to attempts to address structural racism as the country reels from a global pandemic. In this moment of change, advocates and experts see a moment of opportunity—but only if communicators and the organizations they work for are asking the right questions. For PR pros and communicators to be effective in delivering messages about DE&I, as well as corporate social responsibility and good governance, it’s essential to become a strategic advisor, beyond the tactical execution of the latest press release.

Designing the Hybrid Office

From workplace to “culture space”

By Anne-Laure Fayard, John Weeks, and Mahwesh Khan In June 2019 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opened Olympic House, its new headquarters, in Lausanne, Switzerland. Constructed over six years, at a cost of $150 million, the new building was empty within just nine months. IOC staffers, like knowledge workers around the world, were working from home. The natural experiment forced on the world by the coronavirus demonstrates that the academics and tech visionaries who have been talking since the 1980s about the possibilities of remote work were not exaggerating. Research from before the pandemic established that some workers in wealthy industrialized countries can work effectively from home, and that about 80% of them would like to do so, at least some of the time. After months of working remotely, employers, too, have learned that most tasks are accomplished and most meetings go just fine without the office.

‘This Is Unprecedented’: Why America’s Housing Market Has Never Been Weirder

In America’s largest, richest cities, home prices and rents are going in opposite directions.

By Derek Thompson, The Atlantic If you think the U.S. housing market is behaving very, very strangely these days, that probably means you’re paying attention. In almost any other year, a weak economy would cripple housing. But the flash-freeze recession of 2020 corresponded with a real-estate boom, led by high-end purchases in suburbs and small towns. Even stranger, in America’s big metros, home prices and rents are going in opposite directions. Home values increased in all of the 100 largest metros in the U.S., according to Zillow data. But in some of the richest cities—San Jose; Seattle; New York; Boston; Austin; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; and Chicago—rent prices fell, many by double-digit percentages. In many cases, the gap was absurdly large. In San Jose last year, home prices rose by 14 percent (the sixth-largest increase in the country) but the area’s rents fell 7 percent (the sixth-largest decline).

And Finally...

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