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Weekly Update 15-21 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

LISTEN: 3Cs in a Pod: Season 3 Ep6: 'Working on Many Different Levels'

With the impeachment trial ending we now face the task ahead of attempting to move forward. The nation certainly finds itself at a crossroads as we look to find balance both in our leadership and our communities. In our deep dive segment we talk to Mr Jason Newton, co-anchor of WBAL-TV 11 News Today and host of the public affairs show "11 TV Hill". Jason is an Emmy award winning reporter whose news travels have taken him around the country covering stories of national interest.

There's no 'giant national campaign' for COVID-19 vaccine education; experts say there's a better way

By Elizabeth Weise, USA Today

If you've been waiting for a big national campaign telling you COVID-19 vaccines are safe and everybody should get them, don't hold your breath. Until the supply is plentiful, the federal effort is largely focused on minority communities hesitant about the immunizations. It's a wise approach, experts say. The kind of one-size-fits-all public service announcements that once blanketed the country won't work for COVID-19 vaccines, they say. Those were for universal messages – only you can prevent forest fires, keep America beautiful, friends don't let friends drive drunk. With COVID-19, different communities need different messages, and mass advertising doesn't necessarily make sense.

Delay a Shot? Skip One? Vaccine-Dosing Messaging Is a Nightmare.

Vaccine regimens need both science and public trust to succeed.

By Katherine J. Wu, for The Atlantic The debates began as 2020 ended and the first vaccines were headed toward authorization. Skip the second dose, some researchers proposed—just one prick of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna formulation might be enough to do the trick. Jab No. 2 is crucial, others parried, but perhaps it can be postponed longer than the prescribed three or four weeks. No need to screw with the schedule, still others insisted, if the amount of vaccine in each inoculation gets cut in half.

Biden team struggles to specify when schools will open, normalcy will return

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Laura Meckler, The Washington Post

Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert, has said Americans can expect a return to normalcy by this fall. President Biden suggested on Tuesday that a better estimate for a return to the pre-pandemic normal would be Christmas. Both goals come long after the end of July, when Biden promises there will be enough vaccine doses for every American, which is the benchmark that many people had believed would allow life to resume its normal course. As the country approaches the one-year mark of the pandemic’s isolation and restrictions, the Biden administration is struggling to give precise, consistent answers to two key questions: When will the pandemic truly be behind us? And, short of that, when can children safely return to school?

We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April

Covid cases have dropped 77% in six weeks. Experts should level with the public about the good news.

By Marty Makary, for WSJ Amid the dire Covid warnings, one crucial fact has been largely ignored: Cases are down 77% over the past six weeks. If a medication slashed cases by 77%, we’d call it a miracle pill. Why is the number of cases plummeting much faster than experts predicted? In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural immunity.

One-Third of US Troops Are Refusing the COVID Vaccine. History May Help Explain Why

After botching anthrax shots decades ago, the Pentagon’s hands are tied. Only the president can order troops to take new vaccines.

By Elizabeth Howe, Defense One

U.S. troops are required to take many vaccinations before they enlist or deploy abroad, but the COVID-19 shot is still not among them. The terms of an “emergency use authorization” — the type of federal approval that governs the COVID-19 vaccines presently being distributed in the United States — prevent the Defense Department from requiring its administration. But the lack of a mandate was a topic of concern in Congress on Wednesday, where members heard from senior military officials that around one-third of military personnel offered the vaccine have refused it. Changing that trend may require a direct order from the new commander in chief, President Joe Biden, and the reason has little to do with anti-vaxxer conspiracies.

Even in COVID-19, Journalists Seek Brief, Relevant Pitches

By Seth Arenstein, PRNews

Media relations pros often say that a key to working with journalists is creating relationships and treating reporters as partners. So, how is your ‘partner’ doing during the pandemic? A new survey of 150 business and tech journalists, including freelancers and bloggers, offers insights. In short, while the pandemic changed certain journalistic tactics, many of the basics of media relations remain, according to the survey from Touchdown PR. Media members were not spared from the pandemic’s economic woes. Nearly one quarter of journalists surveyed (18 percent) said they had to find other sources of income last year. Nearly 25 percent lost work during 2020 owing to the pandemic. The same percentage, 25 percent, were required to reduce their rates. More than half (65 percent) reported working longer hours.

The Capitol rioters speak just like the Islamist terrorists I reported on

People who feel robbed of their pride and purpose can become dangerous.

By Jim Sciutto, for The Washington Post

In July 2005, while working as a foreign correspondent in London, I was alarmed to learn that two terrorists lived right down the street from me. The men had attempted to blow themselves up on the London transit system two weeks after the deadly “7/7” subway bombings that killed 52 commuters. Watching the failed suicide bombers being arrested at their apartment complex — stripped down to their underwear to ensure they weren’t wearing explosive vests — launched me on a reporting journey to answer a question: What had led these young men, living in Europe with Western freedom and opportunity, down the same path to terrorism I’d reported on so many times in the Middle East? In interviews with well-educated, often middle-class and seemingly moderate young men, I documented what was then the new and growing appeal in the West of Islamist violence built on false history and a deep, debilitating sense of victimhood.

What Are Sperm Telling Us?

Scientists are concerned by falling sperm counts and declining egg quality. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be the problem.

By Nicholas Kristof, NYT Something alarming is happening between our legs. Sperm counts have been dropping; infant boys are developing more genital abnormalities; more girls are experiencing early puberty; and adult women appear to be suffering declining egg quality and more miscarriages. It’s not just humans. Scientists report genital anomalies in a range of species, including unusually small penises in alligators, otters and minks. In some areas, significant numbers of fish, frogs and turtles have exhibited both male and female organs.

The inclusivity trap

Asking patients for their pronouns helps us treat them — unless they shut down

By Lala Tanmoy Das, for The Washington Post “How’s your afternoon going so far?” I asked my patient, a man who’d come to get his blood drawn and his meds refilled, one afternoon last year. While sanitizing my hands, I noticed a Trump campaign slogan emblazoned on his T-shirt. I tried not to look down at the rainbow pin on my own white coat. I introduced myself.

‘A complete bungle’: Texas’ energy pride goes out with cold

By The Associated Press

Anger over Texas’ power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze continued to mount Wednesday as millions of residents in the energy capital of the U.S. remained shivering with no assurances that their electricity and heat — out since Monday in many homes — would return soon or stay on once it finally does. “I know people are angry and frustrated,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday. “So am I.”

In Texas’s Black-Swan Blackout, Everything Went Wrong at Once

By Rachel Adams-Heard, Naureen S Malik, and Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg The finger-pointing began immediately: It was the frozen wind turbines that foolishly replaced traditional sources. No, fossil fuels were at fault. No, Texas’s deregulated power market, unique in the country, had allowed companies to skimp on maintenance and upgrades.

America’s Other Forever War

The United States doesn’t just bomb its enemies. It chokes them.

By Peter Beinart, NYT

“It is past time,” Joe Biden pledged last year, “to end the forever wars.” He’s right. But his definition of war is too narrow.For decades, the United States has supplemented its missile strikes and Special Operations raids with a less visible instrument of coercion and death. America blockades weaker adversaries, choking off their trade with the outside world. It’s the modern equivalent of surrounding a city and trying to starve it into submission. Wonks call this weapon “secondary sanctions.” The more accurate term would be “siege.”

Promotions for Female Generals Were Delayed Over Fears of Trump’s Reaction

Under a Biden administration, the nominations are expected to go from the Pentagon to the White House within weeks and then to the Senate for approval.

By Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, New York Times

Last fall, the Pentagon’s most senior leaders agreed that two top generals should be promoted to elite, four-star commands. For the defense secretary at the time, Mark T. Esper, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the tricky part was that both of the accomplished officers were women. In 2020 America under President Donald J. Trump, the two Pentagon leaders feared that any candidates other than white men for jobs mostly held by white men might run into turmoil once their nominations reached the White House.

LISTEN: Northrop Grumman Cyber Report: Internet Diplomacy & Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

On this week’s Cyber Report, sponsored by Northrop Grumman, in segment one Justin Sherman with the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative and Wired Magazine contributor, discusses the recent article he co-authored with Trey Herr, “Finding a Foreign Policy for the Internet.” In segment two John Cofrancesco of Fortress Information Security discusses cyber supply chain defense, vulnerabilities associated with an either or offense vs. defense approach to cyber security and where CMMC needs to mature under the Biden Administration.

Beyond Black History Month: 2021 Cannot Be Just Another Year

By Ariane Lovell, PRNews

Typically, in the US, we observe Black History Month each February. For many reasons, 2021 cannot be just another year. In the middle of a pandemic that has impacted every aspect of our lives, we also endured continued civil unrest, the Black Lives Matters movement, a political insurrection and economic decline. At the core is the scar of racism and how we deal with it. We need solutions that will tackle issues, not color over them with slogans and moments of activism. In addition, we must turn moments into movements that will recognize and enable the potential of all.

An Uncomplicated Complication of Communicating Black History Month --Moving Forward

By Bashon Mann, Provision Advisors For as long as I can remember, growing up in my parent’s home through the 70s and 80s, and being educated in public schools in the Hudson Valley; I have known full well the importance of Black History Month come February. It wasn’t lost on our Black family the jocular notion of February being the shortest month of the year by association or that significant recognition of Black achievers seemed to only come around specifically for this time period. Much like pulling out lights or decorations for other holidays, this was the set aside time for addressing that which is Black and/or African-American, only to be packed away at the conclusion of the month. We adorned this dismissiveness as a badge of courage -- much as we tolerate the totality and far-reaching tentacles of racism writ-large. Just sorta comes with the Black experience in America.

Groups ask Supreme Court to declare the all-male military draft unconstitutional

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post

President Jimmy Carter called for including women in the military draft more than 40 years ago. The Defense Department decades later agreed the change would improve military readiness and national security. And a special commission set up by Congress to specifically study the issue came to a similar conclusion last year. Requiring women — not just men — to register when they turn 18, it said, would make it “possible to draw on the talent of a unified nation in a time of national emergency.” Now the Supreme Court, in a case reminiscent of the lawsuits that brought fame to a feminist lawyer named Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is being asked to force the hand of a reticent Congress by declaring the male-only military draft unconstitutional.

What communicators can learn from the White House press secretary

Comms professionals analyze Jen Psaki’s performance, even the #PsakiBomb.

By Sally Ann O’Dowd, PR Daily

President Joe Biden has said a free and independent press is essential to democracy, a far cry from Donald Trump’s demonization of professional journalists as “enemy of the people.” On his first day in office, Biden also said he would fire anyone on his staff who acted disrespectfully toward colleagues “on the spot.” Those values were in stark contrast with reality last week, as it was revealed that TJ Ducklo, then the White House deputy press secretary, had threatened to “destroy” a reporter.

The Diplomat as Gardener

What George Shultz Understood About American Power

By Nicholas Burns, Foreign Affairs In July 1988, during his final year as secretary of state, George Shultz embarked on an eight-country, three-week tour of Asia. No crisis or urgent diplomatic objective had spurred the trip—unthinkably long by today’s standards. With the Soviet Union in decline and China focused inward, the United States’ global position was strong. But Shultz had a deep commitment to what he called “tending the diplomatic garden.” I was a young Foreign Service officer accompanying Shultz. Watching the way he treated his hosts in each capital city was a powerful lesson in American diplomacy and why it matters.

A Superpower, Like It or Not

Why Americans Must Accept Their Global Role

By Robert Kagan, for Foreign Affairs All great powers have a deeply ingrained self-perception shaped by historical experience, geography, culture, beliefs, and myths. Many Chinese today yearn to recover the greatness of a time when they ruled unchallenged at the pinnacle of their civilization, before “the century of humiliation.” Russians are nostalgic for Soviet days, when they were the other superpower and ruled from Poland to Vladivostok. Henry Kissinger once observed that Iranian leaders had to choose whether they wanted to be “a nation or a cause,” but great powers and aspiring great powers often see themselves as both. Their self-perception shapes their definition of the national interest, of what constitutes genuine security and the actions and resources necessary to achieve it. Often, it is these self-perceptions that drive nations, empires, and city-states forward. And sometimes to their ruin. Much of the drama of the past century resulted from great powers whose aspirations exceeded their capacity.

How US can avoid an all-out war with China

By Roger Boyes, London Times

Back in the late 1880s German naval officers used to clink glasses and drink to “Der Tag!”, the day of reckoning with the British. Do Chinese officers make similar toasts with an eye on America, the country that has to be challenged at sea if an insurgent power is to make the grade? A heavyweight think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), warns that Taiwan is becoming the most dangerous flashpoint in the world for a possible war that involves the United States, China and probably other big powers.

An Unsentimental China Policy

The Case for Putting Vital Interests First

By Graham Allison and Fred Hu, for Foreign Affairs Fifty years ago this July, U.S. President Richard Nixon announced what would become his signature foreign policy achievement: the opening to China. The following February, in what the press called “the week that shook the world,” he flew to Beijing to meet Mao Zedong, the leader of communist China. So began a half century of U.S. engagement with Beijing. At the time, China was the most important ally of the Soviet Union and the tip of the spear advancing communist revolutions worldwide. But within the decade, U.S. President Jimmy Carter had normalized the relationship, recognizing the regime in Beijing as China’s sole legitimate government and abrogating the U.S. defense treaty with Taiwan. The rest is history: China helped the United States win the Cold War, and the thaw in U.S.-Chinese relations allowed Asia to emerge as the most economically dynamic region in the world.

Rush Limbaugh died as he lived — dividing America

By Mary McNamara, LA Times

What is the appropriate response when someone who spent his life attempting to exploit and aggravate the political and social divisions of a nation dies? However the life of a professional divider is cast, any depiction or consideration will be greeted by howls of outrage from one side of that divide or the other.

To his many fans, Rush Limbaugh via his radio program was an early and dependable voice of reactionary conservatism. His raging contempt for any form of progressive politics was their raging contempt for any form of progressive politics.

GameStop hearing paints Silicon Valley as public enemy #1

By Dan Primack, Axios

Congress yesterday lived down to its reputation, uncovering little new information about the GameStop stock surge. But it did illustrate how Silicon Valley has overtaken Wall Street as public enemy number one, particularly among Democrats. What happened: No one received more questions, and more rhetorical brickbats, than Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, despite the presence of hedge fund titans Ken Griffin and Gabe Plotkin.

What Professional Service Firms Must Do to Thrive

They have to tightly align their practices and clients.

By Ashish Nanda and Das Narayandas, For Harvard Business Review

When the going gets tough, companies often get desperate. So it should be no surprise that during the coronavirus pandemic and the concomitant economic crisis, professional service firms (PSFs) have been chasing after all kinds of business just to keep the lights on. We see this over and over: consultancies, law firms, accounting firms, and the like offering services and signing up clients they should never have considered. This approach to shoring up billings is perilous.

Facebook and Google flaunt dominance Down Under

By Jeffrey Goldfarb, Reuters

It is increasingly likely that U.S. technology titans will emerge only mildly scarred from a bruising battle in Australia. The government and the media industry are admirably standing up to Facebook and Google in a bid to force them to pay for news, but fresh developments put the duo’s corporate clout on full display.

Develop a “Probabilistic” Approach to Managing Uncertainty

By Mike Walsh, for Harvard Business Review Our new world of sensors, smartphones, and connected devices means more data than ever — but does it also mean that it’s getting easier to make well-informed decisions? Quite the contrary, in fact. What’s more important than how much data you have is how it frames the way you think. Too often, leaders under pressure to appear decisive attempt to deal with complex issues with simple rules or analogies, selectively using data to justify poor judgment calls. But what if rather than trying to be right, you could be less wrong over time?

A New Era of Black Holes Is Here

Astronomers have discovered a black-hole treasure trove that is changing our view of the cosmos.

By Thomas Lewton and Quanta for The Atlantic When the first black-hole collision was detected in 2015, it was a watershed moment in the history of astronomy. Using gravitational waves, astronomers were observing the universe in an entirely new way. But this first event didn’t revolutionize our understanding of black holes—nor could it. This collision would be the first of many, astronomers knew, and only with that bounty would answers come.

Driving force: Meet the woman behind VDOT NoVa’s hilarious, endearing and critical Twitter

By Will Vitka, WTOP

When you think of D.C.-area transportation agencies, “comedy” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But that’s what makes the official Northern Virginia Department of Transportation Twitter account a standout. It provides information crucial for drivers and a healthy, sometimes gut-busting, dose of humor, which always seems in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic. And you can thank VDOT Spokesperson and Senior Public Affairs Officer Ellen Kamilakis for that. Kamilakis told WTOP she started tweeting for the agency right about when she started her gig in 2015.

WATCH: Ben Sasse’s Impossible GOP Dream

Ward Carroll, You Tube When recently asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether the GOP is still Donald Trump’s party, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said the following: “If you look at polling in the short-term, it surely appears that way. I think it's important to give a frank assessment of where the party of Lincoln and Reagan is right now. I think there's a whole bunch of stuff the party of Lincoln and Reagan needs to do to persuade people we have a 2030 agenda, not a 20-minute Twitter agenda."

And Finally...

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