Weekly Update 07-13 Jun 21
Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.
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By David Brooks, for the New York Times
Distrust is a cancer eating away at our society. It magnifies enmity, stifles cooperation and fuels conspiracy thinking. So the question is, how do you build trust? Within organizations, trust is usually built by leaders who create environments that encourage people to behave with integrity, competence and benevolence. That’s not just a matter of character, but of having the right practical skills — knowing what to do in complex situations to make people feel respected and safe. Here are some practices leaders have used in their companies and organizations to build trust.
People in the United States no longer agree on the nation’s purpose, values, history, or meaning. Is reconciliation possible?
By George Packer, The Atlantic
Nations, like individuals, tell stories in order to understand what they are, where they come from, and what they want to be. National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one—they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires. Americans know by now that democracy depends on a baseline of shared reality—when facts become fungible, we’re lost. But just as no one can live a happy and productive life in nonstop self-criticism, nations require more than facts—they need stories that convey a moral identity. The long gaze in the mirror has to end in self-respect or it will swallow us up.
Mandatory Mondays and Fridays. Unused desks and crowded conference rooms. Employers and workers navigate a return to offices.
By Chip Cutter, The Wall Street Journal
It took months for bosses and employees to adjust to working remotely in the pandemic. The next era of work might be even more messy. Companies are laying down new rules and setting expectations for hybrid work as some workers come back in and others remain out of office. At JPMorgan Chase JPM -1.08% & Co., employees on some teams can schedule work-from-home days, but not on Mondays or Fridays. At Salesforce.com Inc. offices that have reopened, Thursdays are proving to be the most popular in-office day, creating high demand for meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, and prompting the company to rethink its office design.
Many people who have been working from home are experiencing a void they can’t quite name.
By Jerry Useem, The Atlantic
Back when commuting was a requirement for going to work, I once passed through a subway tunnel so filthy and crowded that the poem inscribed on its ceiling seemed like a cruel joke. “overslept, / so tired. / if late, / get fired. / why bother? / why the pain? / just go home / do it again.” “The Commuter’s Lament,” which adorns a subterranean passage in New York City’s 42nd Street station, made the already grim ritual of getting to and from work positively Dante-esque. But no one questioned the gist of it. The commute, according to the Nobel Prize–winning economist Daniel Kahneman’s research, ranked as the single most miserable part of our day. A Swiss study held long commutes responsible for “systematically lower subjective well-being.”
Some people said they started bathing less during the pandemic. As long as no one complains, they say they plan to keep the new habit.
By Maria Cramer, The New York Times
Robin Harper, an administrative assistant at a preschool on Martha’s Vineyard, grew up showering every day. “It’s what you did,” she said. But when the coronavirus pandemic forced her indoors and away from the general public, she started showering once a week. The new practice felt environmentally virtuous, practical and freeing. And it has stuck. “Don’t get me wrong,” said Ms. Harper, 43, who has returned to work. “I like showers. But it’s one thing off my plate. I’m a mom. I work full-time, and it’s one less thing I have to do.”
By Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube, NBC News. President Joe Biden has quietly begun efforts to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, using an under-the-radar approach to minimize political blowback and to try to make at least some progress in resolving a long-standing legal and human rights morass before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. After initial plans for a more aggressive push to close the facility — including rebuffed attempts to recruit a special envoy to oversee the strategy — the White House changed course, sources said. The administration has opted to wait before it reaches out to Congress, which has thwarted previous efforts to close the camp, because of fears that political outcry might interfere with the rest of Biden's agenda.
By Defense & Aerospace Report
Welcome to the CavasShips Podcast with Christopher P. Cavas and Chris Servello. This is the first of a new, weekly podcast looking at naval and maritime events and issues of the day – in the US, across the seas and around the world. At long last the White House has named its nominee to be the next Secretary of the Navy – we’ll talk about who is Carlos Del Toro and the challenges he faces. The eagerly-anticipated Navy 30-year shipbuilding plan seems to be delayed – again. And what are the implications of a leaked budget memo telling Navy leaders they have to choose between a new submarine, new destroyer or a new strike fighter – but they can only have one. CavasShips is a Defense & Aerospace Production.
By Sam LaGrone, USNI
A former surface warfare commander and president of a small information technology firm is the Biden administration’s nominee for the long-vacant top job in the Department of the Navy, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to USNI News on Friday. Carlos Del Toro, a Cuban-born Naval Academy graduate, has been the current chief executive officer of SBG Technology Solutions for the last 17 years.
Del Toro served in the Navy for 22 years, including the commissioning commanding officer of USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) in 1998. He also served as a Navy civilian, with his final assignment as Senior Executive Assistant to the Director for Program Analysis and Evaluation.
By Hope Hodge Seck, Military.com
The Marine Corps has formally kicked off a scientific study that may upend one of the most maligned aspects of life in the service: height and weight standards that many complain are outdated and prone to punishing those with bulky muscle. The Corps, in partnership with the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, is testing volunteers at Quantico, Virginia, to get a better sense of the build and body composition of today's Marine and develop better standards and methods to assess fitness moving forward.
How to Get the Pentagon to Focus on the Real Threats
By Michael Beckley, for Foreign Affairs The United States has spent $19 trillion on its military since the end of the Cold War. That is $16 trillion more than China spent and nearly as much as the rest of the world combined spent during the same period. Yet many experts think that the United States is about to lose a devastating war. In March, Admiral Philip Davidson, then the commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific, warned that within the next six years, China’s military will “overmatch” that of the United States and will “forcibly change the status quo” in East Asia. Back in 2019, a former Pentagon official claimed that the U.S. military routinely “gets its ass handed to it” in war games simulating combat with China. Meanwhile, many analysts and researchers have concluded that if China chose to conquer Taiwan, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could cripple whatever U.S. forces tried to stand in its way.
By Jacqueline Feldscher, Defense One
Pentagon leaders talk about the China threat more than they work to counter it — and that’s got to stop, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his department in a Wednesday directive. Austin’s classified directive is built on recommendations by the Pentagon’s China Task Force, which was stood up in February after President Joe Biden told the department to review its efforts to counter Beijing. “The task force did find what we described as a ‘say-do gap’ between the stated prioritization of China and what we saw in a number of areas related to attention and resources and processes,” a senior defense official told reporters on Wednesday.
By Michael E. Miller, WashPost
The headline hardly stood out on the website of the hyper-nationalistic Chinese newspaper. “Why US will lose a war with China over Taiwan island,” announced the April 27 op-ed in the Global Times, which also referred to Taiwan’s democratically elected leaders as “renegade secessionists” and called U.S. Congress interest “corrupt.” What was unusual about the article was its author. Franz Gayl isn’t just an American. He is a celebrated whistleblower — whose conduct was praised by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) — and a retired Marine major working at the Pentagon.
Chinese trolls are beginning to pose serious threats to economic security, political stability, and personal safety worldwide.
By Ryan Fedasiuk, Council on Foreign Relations
Some sling personal insults; others come bearing GIFs. With eclectic names like “truth_seeker456” and “mariele01757186,” and typically zero Twitter followers, they aren’t exactly hard to spot. But for all their obvious tells, China’s internet trolls are a more potent force than most analysts give them credit for—and remain a core part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) strategy to seize international discourse power. Today, most onlookers regard the “Fifty Cent Army” as an oddity of the Chinese internet, more warranting mockery than demanding action. But as the CCP pivots to more aggressively pushing propaganda on foreign social media networks, its trolls are beginning to pose serious threats to economic security, political stability, and personal safety worldwide.
By Fareed Zakaria for The Washington Post
Are you ready for the next global crisis? Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said last month that we are already “on the cusp of a global digital pandemic.” He was talking about the explosion of cybercrime. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray concurs, explaining that the dramatic rise of this new form of crime has shaken the U.S. security apparatus much like the 9/11 attacks did in 2001.
By Heather Haddon, WSJ
McDonald’s Corp. MCD 1.00% said hackers stole some data from its systems in markets including the U.S., South Korea and Taiwan, in another example of cybercriminals infiltrating high-profile global companies. The burger chain said Friday that it recently hired external consultants to investigate unauthorized activity on an internal security system, prompted by a specific incident in which the unauthorized access was cut off a week after it was identified, McDonald’s said. The investigators discovered that company data had been breached in markets including the U.S., South Korea and Taiwan, the company said.
By Jim VandeHei, Axios
Never have humans talked, tweeted or texted more words — and found it more difficult to be heard. Why it matters: In this era of nonstop noise, every person must be a skillful communicator. Yet most struggle at it.
The big picture: The communications crisis isn’t confined to business or top leaders. The more noise and distraction, the more precision and efficiency matter in being heard — and remembered.
By Joseph Czabovsky, PR News
It was one of the most challenging days of my life. I was attending a funeral for my mother-in-law, who passed far too young, in her 50s. I was distraught for my partner, the most wonderful man I know. He'd lost perhaps the most loving person in his life. For years, I was welcomed into his family. National discourse might say this was surprising. We’re a gay couple and much of his family comes from Southern Baptist churches in some of the reddest counties in North Carolina. I can’t remember saying out loud, 'We’re a gay couple!' It was always one of those knowns/un-saids. I respected his family's views, and they did the same with mine.
By Gabriel Schoenfeld, for The New York Times
It is an axiom that governmental secrecy is antithetical to democratic self-rule. But it is also an axiom that secrecy is crucial to the conduct of statecraft. The 50th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by The New York Times provides an occasion to consider what happens when the two axioms collide. The case of Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the most celebrated leaker in our history, reveals the ambiguities stemming from a tension that can never be satisfactorily resolved.
By Jacob Knutson, Axios
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Friday announced the opening of an internal probe into the department's Trump-era secret subpoenas against Apple for data belonging to House Democrats and its seizure of phone records of journalists working for major media companies.
The state of play: The move comes after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco requested that Horowitz open a review and calls from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for an investigation into the matter.
By Elahe Izadi, WashPost
The Pulitzer Prize board awarded a special citation on Friday to Darnella Frazier, the teenager whose cellphone footage of George Floyd’s murder last summer led to massive protests and sparked a racial reckoning in the country. Frazier was 17 at the time she filmed Floyd’s death under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and she testified at Chauvin’s trial, where he would eventually be convicted. Her video contradicted the initial police account of Floyd’s death. In Friday’s announcement, the board said Frazier received the citation for “courageously reporting the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice."
Podcast: “We see this wave of digital censorship sweeping through Asia”—Indonesia joins a worrying trend
By The Economist
As governments across South-East Asia crimp online freedoms, the region’s healthiest democracy might have been expected to resist the trend. Not so.
Opinion By Bill Wagner, Capital Gazette
Nobody knows why the Secretary of the Navy suddenly decided to cancel the professional sports option for his branch of the armed services. In late May, Thomas W. Harker denied requests from a pair of former Naval Academy athletes to delay their commissioning to pursue professional sports opportunities. Football player Cameron Kinley and baseball player Charlie Connolly were told three days before graduation they must commission as ensigns and begin serving. Kinley had signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Connolly was expected to be selected in next month’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
By Candace Buckner, WashPost
When NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watched the 2018 documentary “Shut Up and Dribble,” even he was surprised by his own level of commitment to social justice causes. An activist throughout his playing career, Abdul-Jabbar tackled many issues, from promoting cultural heritage as a high school star from Harlem to refusing to participate in the 1968 Summer Olympics because he didn’t “feel very patriotic” after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The three-part documentary, which featured Abdul-Jabbar among other athletes, served as a reminder of his “long history with all of this,” he said.
Her greatness is a form of resistance.
By Jemele Hill, The Atlantic
Simone Biles is the greatest athlete in the world today. For me, this isn’t a debate. It’s a statement of fact. On Sunday, she won a record seventh United States gymnastics championship, continuing her jaw-dropping winning streak in every all-around competition she’s entered since 2013. The 24-year-old hasn’t lost in eight years. Typical gymnasts her age aren’t beating all their rivals by the big margins that, for Biles, have become routine. Although Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl at age 43, he is no longer in his prime, and other Super Bowl–winning quarterbacks, including Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, are arguably more physically talented. Unlike the current greats in other sports, Biles has no peer.