Weekly Update 10-16 May 21
Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.
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Beyond Colonial Pipeline, Ransomware Cyberattacks Are a Growing Threat.
By Robert McMillan, Dustin Volz and Tawnell D. Hobbs, The Wall Street Journal
The cyberattack that knocked offline an essential U.S. gasoline pipeline shows how the dangerous, professional-scale hack-for-ransom threat is spreading rapidly, targeting companies, schools, hospitals and other institutions. While ransomware has been a challenge for small businesses for years, a confluence of factors have emboldened attackers in the past year, culminating in the shutdown Friday of a critical gasoline pipeline to the U.S. East Coast. The pipeline’s operator, Colonial Pipeline Co., now says service could be offline until week’s end, threatening to raise prices at the pump for millions of Americans. Attacks are growing in number and scale as millions of people across the country work or attend school remotely, in some cases opening back doors to networks without corporate or institutional security protections, security researchers say.
Your Car, Toaster, Even Washing Machine, Can’t Work Without Them. And There’s a Global Shortage.
By Alex T. Williams, for The New York Times Alex Williams is an economist and research analyst at Employ America, a think tank focused on creating tighter labor markets. As the fallout from Covid wreaks havoc on supply chains, a major economic and geopolitical tug of war has broken out. The reason: a global shortage in the supply of semiconductors — the microchips at the heart of countless products in a modern economy. While companies potentially prepare to fight their suppliers and the United States threatens to bring production back home, Ford Motor said the shortage has slashed its profit forecast by more than $2 billion. Worse still, major producers like Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company are warning that the shortage may last more than a year. How did we get here? Decades of underinvestment.
Russia’s Hackers Unwisely Mess With U.S. Gas Prices
A strange apology from DarkSide indicates where crime-for-profit ends and national security begins.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. for The Wall Street Journal Newt Gingrich would like to send SEAL Team Six busting through the doors of whoever authorized the Colonial Pipeline hack. Or maybe a Hellfire missile through the sunroof of some hacker godfather’s Lexus. Many Americans would likely agree and favor similar treatment for robocallers and email spammers, which sounds good until you remember that this would involve U.S. troops carrying out military actions on the soil of Russia or its satellites. One universal prescription for every kind of mishap is resilience. The Jones Act, a foolish, century-old law that reserves domestic ship-borne trade for U.S-crewed ships, is anti-resilience. If gas station owners weren’t bound by anti-gouging laws, they likely would never run out of gas. They’d jack prices high enough to persuade their customers that filling up every jerry can and topping off the Tahoe when it’s three-fourths full isn’t so necessary after all.
Northrop Grumman Cyber Report: Colonial Pipeline Attack Takeaways & Way Forward.
By Defense & Aerospace Report
Cyberspace Solarium Commission Executive Director Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, USN (ret.), deputy Executive Director John Costello join John Cofrancesco of Fortress Information Security to discuss lesson learned and ways forward in the wake of the recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.
Biden orders wide cybersecurity changes for government, contractors.
By Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNet
Following government cyber breaches, the Biden administration issued a cybersecurity order requiring improved protections at government agencies and prompt breach reports from federal computer network and cloud service suppliers. The executive order signed Wednesday touches on many issues that the Defense Department is weighing to ensure adequate protections among its vast information technology supplier network, an effort driven in large part by lawmakers’ alarm over recent high-profile government network compromises. For example, lawmakers ordered the DoD to assess programs to share cybersecurity information with the defense industrial base and to consider the possibility of a threat-hunting program on vendors’ networks.
CDC says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need masks indoors or outdoors in many cases
The relaxation of restrictions incentivizes people to get the shots and helps pave the way for a full reopening of society.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Laurie McGinley, The Washington Post
Americans who are fully vaccinated can go without masks or physical distancing in many cases, even when they are indoors or in large groups, federal officials said Thursday, paving the way for a full reopening of society. The change represents a huge shift symbolically and practically for pandemic-weary Americans, millions of whom have lived with the restrictions for more than a year. A growing number have complained they cannot do more even after being fully vaccinated and criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being overly cautious. More than 154 million Americans have had at least one shot and 117 million are fully vaccinated, about 35 percent of the population.
Why Did It Take So Long to Accept the Facts About Covid?
By Zeynep Tufekci, for the New York Times, Dr. Tufekci is a contributing Opinion writer who has extensively examined the Covid-19 pandemic. A few sentences have shaken a century of science.A week ago, more than a year after the World Health Organization declared that we face a pandemic, a page on its website titled “Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19): How Is It Transmitted?” got a seemingly small update. The agency’s response to that question had been that “current evidence suggests that the main way the virus spreads is by respiratory droplets” — which are expelled from the mouth and quickly fall to the ground — “among people who are in close contact with each other.”
Opinion: Are unemployment benefits keeping people from working? We will soon have an answer.
By Henry Olsen for The Washington Post
Republicans and businesses have been complaining that workers are not taking available jobs because they can make more on unemployment. As Republican-led states repeal the federal supplemental unemployment benefits program, we will soon know whether this complaint has merit. Congress adopted the unprecedented supplement of state unemployment benefits in the first covid-19 relief bill in March 2020. That provision gave states the option of giving its unemployed citizens an extra $600 a week on top of the regular state-financed unemployment check. This temporary provision expired on July 31, but as the pandemic continued, it was modified — first by executive order and twice more by law. Current law gives unemployed workers a flat, federally financed $300 a week on top of the state payments. This measure will expire on Sept. 6.
When Covid Hit, China Was Ready to Tell Its Version of the Story
The government has been using its money and power to create an alternative to a global news media dominated by outlets like the BBC and CNN.
By Ben Smith, The New York Times
In the fall of 2019, just before global borders closed, an international journalists’ association decided to canvass its members about a subject that kept coming up in informal conversations: What is China doing? What it found was astonishing in its scope. Journalists from countries as tiny as Guinea-Bissau had been invited to sign agreements with their Chinese counterparts. The Chinese government was distributing versions of its propaganda newspaper China Daily in English — and also Serbian. A Filipino journalist estimated that more than half of the stories on a Philippines newswire came from the Chinese state agency Xinhua. A Kenyan media group raised money from Chinese investors, then fired a columnist who wrote about China’s suppression of its Uyghur minority. Journalists in Peru faced intense social media criticism from combative Chinese government officials.
China Media Says U.S. 'Will Be Defeated,' Boasts Army Can Overwhelm American Troops
By John Feng, Newsweek
The editor of China's hawkish Communist Party newspaper has insisted the United States "will be defeated" if it engages in combat with the nation in its adjacent waters. Hu Xijin, Global Times editor-in-chief, called for more expansion of China's military in order to counter Washington's strategy of containment and force a change in attitude among key U.S. partners. Wednesday's editorial came a day after Tokyo began hosting U.S., French and Australian troops for the first such joint military exercises on Japanese soil.
This Is How Wokeness Ends
By David Brooks, for The New York Times
My friend Rod Dreher recently had a blog post for The American Conservative called “Why Are Conservatives in Despair?” He explained that conservatives are in despair because a hostile ideology — wokeness or social justice or critical race theory — is sweeping across America the way Bolshevism swept across the Russian Empire before the October Revolution in 1917. This ideology is creating a “soft totalitarianism” across wide swaths of American society, he writes. In the view of not just Dreher but also many others, it divides the world into good and evil based on crude racial categories. It has no faith in persuasion, or open discourse, but it shames and cancels anybody who challenges the official catechism. It produces fringe absurdities like “ethnomathematics,” which proponents say seeks to challenge the ways that, as one guide for teachers puts it, “math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist and racist views” by dismissing old standards like “getting the ‘right’ answer.”
To Be Young and Pessimistic in America
Generation Z is lonelier than millennials and more reluctant to embrace the responsibilities and joys of adulthood. Life online seems to be a reason.
By Abigail Shrier for The Wall Street Journal Moral panic about the young is at least as old as the trial of Socrates, so let’s resist catastrophic thinking about Generation Z and begin with good news: The generation born between 1995 and 2012 is far more risk-averse and more physically safe than its elders. It is more tolerant of other races and sexual orientations. Most surprising, in the early months of the pandemic lockdowns that often took a toll in mental health, this generation managed to show an improvement. In a survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders conducted in May through July 2020 by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution, only 17% reported feeling depressed while school was in session and 20% while it was out for the summer, compared with 27% in a similar survey during the school year in 2018. Loneliness declined to 22% with school in session and 27% in the summer from 29% in 2018. Unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life rose, but not as sharply.
Why Confederate Lies Live On
For some Americans, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it’s the story they want to believe.
By Clint Smith, The Atlantic
Most of the people who come to Blandford Cemetery, in Petersburg, Virginia, come for the windows—masterpieces of Tiffany glass in the cemetery’s deconsecrated church. One morning before the pandemic, I took a tour of the church along with two other visitors and our tour guide, Ken. When my eyes adjusted to the hazy darkness inside, I could see that in each window stood a saint, surrounded by dazzling bursts of blues and greens and violets. Below these explosions of color were words that I couldn’t quite make out. I stepped closer to one of the windows, and the language became clearer. Beneath the saint was an inscription honoring the men “who died for the Confederacy.”
4 tips for developing empathy as a comms leader
The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes might seem like an ingrained character trait, but there are exercises to help hone this essential communications skill.
By Ayana King, PR Daily
Lately, there’s a lot of talk about what brands can do to engage marginalized communities in the workplace and what it takes to create a culture of belonging. Since the murder of George Floyd last spring, corporations have had to come face-to-face with a stark reality: their overwhelmingly white boardrooms and C-suites have largely ignored Black employees. Any attempt at addressing and launching diversity and inclusion initiatives might be seen as yet another performative PR stunt. (There’s a lesson to be learned here about why it’s more important to be proactive rather than reactive.) Decades of research reveal that a lack of representation, specifically in leadership roles, has been a persistent problem since the S&P 500 first launched in 1957. That same research tells us there have always been allies working to address this lack of equality.
Voters Against Democracy
The Roots of Autocratic Resurgence
By Pippa Norris for Foreign Affairs At the heart of his inaugural address, delivered just two weeks after a violent mob sacked the U.S. Capitol, President Joe Biden claimed that the transfer of power reflected American democracy’s victory over the forces of insurrection, chaos, and intolerance. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” he said in a speech that used the term “democracy” more than any of his predecessors’ inaugural addresses. A month later, he revisited the theme at the Munich Security Conference, where he repudiated the “America first” policies of former President Donald Trump and committed to protecting human rights around the world. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.” And in the contest between authoritarianism and democracy, the United States was, after a brief hiatus, again on the right side of history. “America is back,” Biden claimed.
Former acting SECDEF blames media ‘hysteria’ for his response to Jan. 6 insurrection
By Meghann Myers, Military Times
Former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller told lawmakers that he did not waffle on whether to send in District of Columbia National Guard troops to help civilian law enforcement clear the Capitol, but he did offer some insight as to his frame of mind that day. “My concerns regarding the appropriate and limited use of the military in domestic matters were heightened by commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup, or that advisors to the president were advocating the declaration of martial law,“ he said in his opening statement to the House Oversight Committee.
Active Duty U.S. Marine Corps Officer Arrested for Assault on Federal Law Enforcement Officer During Jan. 6 Capitol Breach
Department of Justice Release
An active duty U.S. Marine Corps commissioned officer stationed at the Marine Corps Base Quantico was arrested today in Virginia and charged with crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the presidential election. Major Christopher Warnagiris, 40, of Woodbridge, is charged with federal offenses that include assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; and obstruction of justice, among other charges. Warnagiris will make his initial court appearance today at 2:00 p.m. in the Eastern District of Virginia. Public access to the hearing is available via: 1-877-336-1828, with an access code of 8977102.
Opinion: Jack Reed is crucial to our national security. How will he handle it?
By George F. Will for The Washington Post
After graduating from West Point in 1971, Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat now in the first year of his fifth term, jumped out of airplanes for the 82nd Airborne. Today he is the most important person concerning the nation’s increasingly imperiled security. As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he must plan for the increasing speed of change in military technologies, including cyber, and precise and maneuverable hypersonic (speeds more than Mach 5) weapons. These make parachutes, and even the planes that Reed jumped from, seem as prehistoric as spears.
SASC Chairman: 355-Ship Fleet is ‘Arbitrary’ Goal, Navy Needs To Pursue Autonomous Vehicles
By: Mallory Shelbourne, USNI
Rather than focusing on the “arbitrary” 355-ship fleet total, the service should concentrate more effort on developing autonomous vehicles, the top lawmaker on the Senate Armed Services Committee said today. Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Institute, SASC Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) emphasized the importance of capability over quantity. “In many cases it’s arbitrary. It sends a signal that we’re going to have … so many aircraft or ships rather than look at the threat. Look at what capabilities you need,” Reed said when asked for his thoughts on calls for a 355-ship Navy and larger fleet.
How Can Corporations Avoid Being Dragged into Political Controversies?
By Arthur Solomon, PR News
Companies say they want to avoid being drawn into political controversies, even though they have always been an integral part of the political system, and still are. K Street in Washington, D.C., was, pre-pandemic, not only a major thoroughfare, but the home of copious lobbying firms. Many of their employees are former congressmen and congressional aides. It's their job to sway legislation so it benefits the firm's big-business clients. The mix of lobbying and cash contributions to political campaigns from corporations proves that businesses always were involved in controversial legislation. Admittedly, they often kept quiet about their positions, allowing lobbyists and trade groups, like the Chamber of Commerce, to speak for them. That tactic worked in the past. But not today.
University of South Carolina president resigns after plagiarism incident in commencement speech.
By Nick Anderson, The Washington Post
The president of the University of South Carolina resigned Wednesday following revelations of a recent plagiarism incident in which he delivered a commencement address that included a significant passage from another person’s speech without attribution. Bob Caslen said in a statement that his resignation would take effect Thursday. “Trust is the most important ingredient of effective leadership, and when it is lost, it is nearly impossible to lead,” Caslen said. “I believe that is the case right now between the University of South Carolina and its president.”
We Need to Work on Our “Digital Body Language”, Says an Online Communication Expert
By Ximena Vengoechea, Medium
I recently had the chance to connect with author, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker Erica Dhawan about her new book, Digital Body Language. In a time where we are all being asked to communicate digitally more than ever before, Erica offers a useful guide to making our way through this changing digital landscape. We talk about how we can all improve our digital communication, below.
As Congress Dithers, States Step In to Set Rules for the Internet
By David McCabe and Cecilia Kang, NYT
News outlets in Florida may soon be able to sue Facebook and Twitter if the social media companies take down their content. Arkansans shopping on Amazon will be able to see contact information for third-party merchants, which the site won’t be required to show people outside the state. Residents of Virginia can ask Google and Facebook not to sell their personal data, and the state can sue the companies if they don’t comply.
Facebook is observing a 'steady growth' in disinformation-for-hire services
By Shannon Vavra, Cyberscoop
Last week Facebook said it removed dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that sought to boost the reelection campaign of Julián Zacarías, the current mayor of the Mexican city of Progreso, and denigrate his opponent, Lila Frías Castillo. The campaign managed several pages and accounts that appeared to be independent local news organizations, when, in fact, they were linked with Sombrero Blanco, a public relations firm in Mexico, and Zacarías himself, according to Facebook’s investigation. The company ultimately conducted a takedown of 44Facebook accounts, 11 Pages and one Instagram account, adding that the operation had minimal reach.
The IRS Is Coming for Crypto Investors Who Haven’t Paid Their Taxes
By Laura Saunders, WSJ
Cryptocurrencies are exploding—and so is the Internal Revenue Service’s pursuit of Americans who aren’t paying taxes on them. With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to clean up your act if you’ve been lax about taxes on crypto. Not doing so could compound future tax problems, especially if you have traded a lot or have more than a small stake.
Humanized Branding: Five Ways Marketers Can Strike the Right Tone
By Kisha Renee Ward, Newsweek
A brand's success lives and dies by the numbers in a data-driven marketing world, but those statistics represent much more than just points on a graph. Behind every click, conversion or purchase is a living, breathing human being, and increasingly, these clients and customers are seeking to connect with a human brand.
Consumers Are More Likely to Use or Drop Brands Based on Racial Justice Response, Survey Finds
By Nat Ives, WSJ
People have become more likely to use a new brand or stop using one because of its response to calls for racial justice, according to a new survey released Thursday. And they say corporations are doing more than individual brands to make change on race issues, a reversal from earlier results.
If You’re Reading Stoicism for Life Hacks, You’re Missing the Point
By Nancy Sherman, for The New York Times, Dr. Sherman is a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and the author of “Stoic Wisdom: Ancient Lessons for Modern Resilience.”
Modern Stoicism has become an industry. And a mega-industry at that. For the consumers seeking wisdom on how to live the good life — and there are a lot of them — there are daily digests of Stoic quotations, books and websites packed with Stoic wisdom to kick-start your day, podcasts, broadcasts, online crash courses and more.
Stacey Abrams, Hillary Clinton and Why Politicians Write Fiction
Writing a novel can provide escapism, control and a dash of positive publicity for politicos like Abrams and Clinton, who this year join Newt Gingrich, Jimmy Carter and other politician-novelists.
By Ben Wiseman for WSJ Magazine Last year was a banner time for political nonfiction, from a plethora of books about Donald Trump to Barack Obama’s latest bestselling memoir, A Promised Land. But a different sort of trend is making a comeback in 2021: Big-name politicians are writing fiction. Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps, which centers on Avery Keene, a law clerk for a U.S. Supreme Court justice, is out May 11. After the justice falls into a coma, Keene must unravel a high-level conspiracy. (The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate has also written eight romance titles under the pen name Selena Montgomery.) On June 7, former President Bill Clinton teams up again with author James Patterson for The President’s Daughter, in which a former president, who had served as a Navy SEAL, embarks on a one-man mission to save his kidnapped teenager. (The pair’s 2018 novel, The President Is Missing, which centers on a different make-believe president, was a huge hit, selling more than 3.2 million copies; the new book has an announced first printing of 1 million copies.) Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton follows suit in October with State of Terror, a collaboration with friend and mystery novelist Louise Penny, which concerns a novice secretary of state trying to get to the bottom of a series of terrorist attacks.
Opinion: Without swift action, the Chesapeake Bay will decline even further into national disgrace
Opinion by Bernie Fowler and William C. Baker
Bernie Fowler, a Democrat, is a former Maryland state senator and Calvert County commissioner. William C. Baker is president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Federal leadership is the missing ingredient needed for the nation’s largest environmental restoration effort to succeed. Americans should take note; the state and federal commitment to save the Chesapeake Bay is at risk of failure. The largest and once most productive estuary in North America is the victim of systematic clean air and clean water reversals over the past four years. Without swift and comprehensive action from the Biden administration and new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, the Chesapeake will decline even further into national disgrace. Failure to save the bay portends ill for the Great Lakes, San Francisco Bay, Galveston Bay and any other major waterway plagued by pollution.
Noah Syndergaard Thinks Baseball Has Gotten Soft—and Humans Have, Too
The Mets pitcher talks cold plunges, hyperbaric chambers, his book club, and the state of baseball.
By Clay Skipper, GQ
Every morning, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard gets in a cold tub, the water temperature just barely above freezing, for a minimum of three minutes. But that’s just the beginning of an extensive wellness routine that includes everything from time in hyperbaric chambers to simply turning off the wifi when he goes to sleep. It’s all built to keep his body in peak physical condition. That’s never been more important for the 28-year-old who throws 97 mph and has spent the last fourteen months rehabbing (most of it in Florida) from a Tommy John surgery he had last March to replace a ligament in his throwing arm.
‘Thank you for ending our careers’: NCAA women’s regional canceled in bizarre fashion
By Sean Zak, Golf.com According to the NCAA, the University Club at LSU received over 7 inches of rain this week. In a controversial decision, a rain-plagued NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships regional event in Baton Rouge, La., was canceled Wednesday without a single shot being played. After taking on 7 inches of rain, the course was deemed to be “playable but not championship level.”
Brad Hurlbut, an NCAA Committee representative on site, issued the announcement to a crowd of stunned competitors and coaches at University Club on the Louisiana State University campus.