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Weekly Update 08-14 Feb 21

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

At Provision Advisors, we prepare your team for the challenges, and 'what-ifs' you never thought you'd encounter--specializing in strategic communication planning, crisis communication, and media coaching for senior-level leaders and communicators. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Top Clips

By Provision Advisors Well the Superbowl is over friends and we’ve got roughly 6 weeks until Pitchers and Catchers report. Before we close the book on football we give our thoughts on the big game, the coverage and you guessed it...the commercials.In our deep dive segment, we are joined by Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick...Founder Grapevine Health and creator of Dr. Lisa on the Street Finally we look on the horizon to the impeachment trial, Russian hacking and Valentines's Day. All this and much more on this week's 3CsInAPod.

Politics is grim but science is working.

By David Brooks, NYT

A few months ago, the economic analyst Noah Smith observed that scientific advance is like mining ore. You find a vein you think is promising. You take a risk and invest heavily. You explore it until it taps out. The problem has been that over the last few decades only a few veins have really been paying off and changing lives. Discoveries in information technology have obviously been massive — the internet and the smartphone. Thanks in part to public investment, clean energy innovation has been fast and plentiful. The price of solar modules has declined by 99.6 percent since 1976.

Opinion by David Ignatius, The Washington Post

The Biden administration is quietly developing an ambitious plan for an alliance of “techno-democracies” to try to prevent dominance of global technology by an authoritarian China. The policy is still in the discussion phase at the White House and State Department, but it has the strong backing of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan. The goal of the alliance, says a senior State Department official, would be “setting the rules and shaping the norms that govern the use of technology” and pushing back against China and other “techno-autocracies.”

America’s Eroding Technological Advantage

By Christopher Darby and Sarah Sewall, Foreign Affairs Since the early days of the Cold War, the United States has led the world in technology. Over the course of the so-called American century, the country conquered space, spearheaded the Internet, and brought the world the iPhone. In recent years, however, China has undertaken an impressive effort to claim the mantle of technological leadership, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in robotics, artificial intelligence, microelectronics, green energy, and much more. Washington has tended to view Beijing’s massive technology investments primarily in military terms, but defense capabilities are merely one aspect of great-power competition today—little more than table stakes. Beijing is playing a more sophisticated game, using technological innovation as a way of advancing its goals without having to resort to war. Chinese companies are selling 5G wireless infrastructure around the world, harnessing synthetic biology to bolster food supplies, and racing to build smaller and faster microchips, all in a bid to grow China’s power.

By The WSJ Editorial Board Does unrestrained federal spending have any economic cost? Can federal debt keep climbing to be larger than the entire U.S. economy without consequence? Sooner or later Americans are going to find out, as Congress and the Biden Administration use the pandemic to justify an unprecedented peacetime spending binge.

Don’t be fooled by bad information or irrational skepticism. Get your shots as soon as possible.

By Aaron E. Carroll, for NYT

As the vaccines for the coronavirus become more ubiquitous, so do misinformation, myths and misconceptions about them. This is unfortunate, because these untruths delay acceptance of the vaccines, and widespread immunization is the fastest and best way to begin to return to a more normal way of life. Seven of the most common myths I’ve heard from patients, friends and colleagues follow, along with my rebuttals.

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Washington Post

In early December, the end of the pandemic glimmered on the horizon. Blockbuster vaccine results suggested a clear path forward. The return to normalcy would take time, but after a year of uncertainty, the conclusion seemingly had come into focus: It was a matter of making vaccine doses and getting them into people’s arms. Then, the euphoria dissipated. The illusion — or, as one scientist puts it, the delusion — that science had bested the virus crumbled as mutation-ridden variants with concerning new characteristics were detected. For the past two months, disease trackers’ understanding of the threat has evolved day by day, as scientists piece together meaning from fragmented clinical data, lab experiments and bits of science gleaned on Twitter. The path forward is still hopeful, but longer and more labyrinthine.

Opinion by Joseph G. Allen and Helen Jenkins, the Washington Post The new report on schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be a wake-up call to parents everywhere: If they’re not back already, your kids are not going back to school full-time this year. The report adds new and unnecessary demands that will ultimately keep millions of kids out of school. In particular, there are two items that will act as barriers: the use of community-spread metrics to determine whether schools should open, and the requirement of routine screening testing.

By Mark O’Connell, The Economist

Some time ago, during a brief period of lockdown de-escalation, I went out for pizza with my seven-year-old son. It should have been a chance to relax but as we ate, I couldn’t help wondering whether it was a good idea for the two of us to be sitting indoors within viral range of other unmasked diners who were chatting, laughing and opening their gaping maws. What was the ventilation scenario? How quickly could we make good our escape from this potentially hazardous situation? Between these anxious distractions and my son’s monomaniacal focus on his pizza, we didn’t talk much. But at one point, he took an unhurried draft of his beverage, leaned back in his seat, looked at me with an expression of unclouded satisfaction and told me that this was the greatest night of his life. The fact that it was shortly after 5pm only added potency to his declaration.

By Drew Altman, Axios

Knowing someone who has been vaccinated, and seeing that the vaccine does not produce any significant adverse effects, is emerging as the leading reason people are willing to get vaccinated themselves. Why it matters: This means vaccine hesitancy should diminish naturally as more people are vaccinated. By the numbers: 41% of Americans say they know someone who’s been vaccinated, and more than half of that group — 52% — say they’ll get vaccinated themselves “as soon as they can.”

By Eric Andrus, PR Daily

COVID-19 has forced changes in just about everything, including the U.S. court system. Nowhere are those adaptations more tradition-breaking than at the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). The court's new virtual setting requires critical adjustments to media relations strategy, yet these changes may offer unforeseen opportunities. As is always the case in litigation communication, media relations must ensure that anything said to journalists–and therefore to the court of public opinion–supports the legal strategy. Still, PR's job is to help communicate and defend a legal position.

BY Niv Ellis, The Hill

Democrats will face an early test of unity in the coming weeks as they prepare a resolution for the 2022 budget that is meant to serve as a vehicle for moving infrastructure and climate change legislation through the Senate on a Democratic vote. Democrats are using budget reconciliation rules for the 2021 budget to move a COVID-19 relief package through the Senate and avoid a filibuster. For that package, which only required a shell budget, they are relatively unified. But the next package is expected to pit progressives against fiscal and defense hawks.

By Paul McCleary, Breaking Defense

The threat from China and the fiscal pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic could mean the Pentagon’s traditional split of the budget — roughly one third for each military department — is ripe for change. It’s not yet clear how the Biden administration will handle the 2022 budget, but the reality of where the threats exist, and how the US will need to spend and posture its forces to meet them, is leading some to rethink the way Pentagon business has been done. “I think that the past view of a share of any budget needs to go away entirely,” Elaine McCusker, a former DoD comptroller now at AEI, told reporters in a conference call today. Her comments recall the characteristically blunt assessment delivered in December by Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who said the Army and Air Force will have to pay to grow the size of the Navy and Space Force to meet the challenge presented by China in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

By Dan Lamothe, Washington Post

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday that he has selected four people, including a former Marine Corps commandant and a retired four-star Navy admiral, to join a congressionally mandated commission that will consider how to rename U.S. military installations that recognize Confederate military officers.

By Keith L. Alexander and Peter Hermann, Washington Post

The acting chief of the D.C. police says he wants to have background checks conducted on all officers and employees to identify any who might align with extremist groups. Robert J. Contee III said he is meeting with police department attorneys and is in discussions with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) about his plan to come up with a policy on extremist groups or ideologies that the city would deem inappropriate for police department employees to take part in. He also wants to hire an outside firm to conduct such investigations later this year.

By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily

For any speech, the hardest part is often knowing where to start. What is the key message you want to convey? What does this specific audience want to hear, and what is the natural cadence of the speaker you are writing for? Joanne Callahan, a speechwriter with Con Edison in New York City, shares how she starts her writing process for any set of remarks: a spec sheet. It’s a tip she says she learned attending Ragan’s Speechwriters Conference in Washington D.C. a decade ago, and now she is sharing her own wisdom ahead of her presentation for Ragan’s Speechwriters and Public Affairs Virtual Conference March 4.

Editors and managers at a great newspaper gather around Twitter to find out what they think.

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., WSJ Untenable was the principle enunciated last week by the New York Times in a kerfuffle over a distinguished reporter who was expelled for uttering the N-word in an innocent discussion of the N-word. Happily for the next victim but not the latest one, the paper has belatedly seen the error of its ways.Donald G. McNeil Jr. “has done much good reporting over four decades,” said management even as it escorted him out the door. Executive Editor Dean Baquet had previously declined to fire Mr. McNeil over the two-year-old incident, saying it was clear the term hadn’t been uttered in a “hateful or malicious” way.

An attack on wines from Australia is an attack on democracy.

By Jonas Parello-Plesner, WSJ If you want to drink a toast to freedom, consider an Australian wine. China has taken umbrage at Australia’s criticism of its human-rights record and slammed tariffs on its wines. Among other outrageous demands, Beijing insists that Australia rein in its free press’s coverage of China. Australia isn’t alone. China has sought to scare off other democracies from criticizing its regime. “If they dare to harm China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, they should beware of their eyes being poked and blinded,” a Beijing spokesman said in November.

How to Keep U.S.-Chinese Confrontation From Ending in Calamity

By Kevin Rudd, Foreign Affairs Officials in Washington and Beijing don’t agree on much these days, but there is one thing on which they see eye to eye: the contest between their two countries will enter a decisive phase in the 2020s. This will be the decade of living dangerously. No matter what strategies the two sides pursue or what events unfold, the tension between the United States and China will grow, and competition will intensify; it is inevitable. War, however, is not. It remains possible for the two countries to put in place guardrails that would prevent a catastrophe: a joint framework for what I call “managed strategic competition” would reduce the risk of competition escalating into open conflict.

By Jamie Tarabay, Bloomberg

Clubhouse, the popular app that allows people to create digital discussion groups, says it’s reviewing its data security practices after the Stanford Internet Observatory found potential vulnerabilities in its infrastructure that could allow external access to users’ raw audio data.

An Italian study shows that communicators are poised to assume greater roles and responsibilities moving forward.

By Alessandra Mazzei, PR Daily Like all crises affecting companies, the COVID-19 emergency brought employee communication to the forefront — this time even more than usual. With physical distancing being enforced worldwide, employee communication became the primary way to promote closeness between people in organizations. In particular, employee communication managed various challenges and expressed its highest potential.

For incarcerated people like me, access to communications comes at a steep price.

By John J. Lennon, for NYT

Mom will probably die before I get out of prison. Her Parkinson’s has advanced over the years, so she can’t visit. Until recently, I’d accepted that I’d never see her again. But lately, she’s been sending me 30-second videos: Mom and Magic, her fat, one-eyed black cat, showing me love through the seven-inch screen of a tablet made by a service provider called JPay. It costs her about a dollar to send each message; to me, they are priceless.

The evidence shows we all lose when society’s overwhelmed by white resentment and win when we organize across our differences.

By Heather C. McGhee, for NYT

Over a two-decade career in the white-collar think tank world, I’ve continually wondered: Why can’t we have nice things? By “we,” I mean America at-large. As for “nice things,” I don’t picture self-driving cars, hovercraft backpacks or laundry that does itself. Instead, I mean the basic aspects of a high-functioning society: well-funded schools, reliable infrastructure, wages that keep workers out of poverty, or a comprehensive public health system equipped to handle pandemics — things that equally developed but less wealthy nations seem to have.

When it comes to lasting romance, passion has nothing on friendship.

By Arthur C Brook for The Atlantic “Ithink i may have met my future wife,” I told my father on the phone, “but there are a few issues.” To be precise: I met the woman in question on a weeklong trip to Europe, she lived in Spain, we’d only been on a couple of dates, and we didn’t speak a word of the same language. Obviously, I told my amused father, “she has no idea I plan to marry her.” But I was 24 and lovestruck, and none of that stopped me from embarking on a quixotic romantic adventure. After a year punctuated by two frustratingly short visits, I quit my job in New York and moved to Barcelona with a plan to learn the language and a prayer that when she could actually understand me, she might love me.

By ESPN Staff Report

The Dallas Mavericks have stopped playing the national anthem before home games at the direction of owner Mark Cuban, he confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday. The Mavericks do not plan to resume the tradition to play the national anthem before games in the future. Cuban, who declined further comment, made the decision after consulting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The Mavericks did not announce the change in policy, but the national anthem has not been played before any of their 13 preseason and regular-season games at the American Airlines Center this season.

By Dan Gelston, AP

Bubba Wallace was more of a fan of Michael Jordan from “Space Jam” than watching the NBA.

He was just a kid when Jordan was in his prime with Chicago, so it seemed natural Wallace was more captivated by MJ shooting hoops with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck than with the Bulls.

Jordan has been a pitchman, an NBA team owner and a tequila connoisseur — and on Sunday, with Wallace at the wheel, he makes his official debut as a NASCAR team owner with 23XI Racing in the Daytona 500.

And Finally...

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