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Weekly Update 15-21 Mar 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 Ep9: 'Charm City's Back in the Spotlight'

By Provision Advisors Hello and welcome to 3Cs in Pod from Provision Advisors, the podcast for and about the global communications environment. Vaccination rates are increasing, COVID cases are decreasing, and a 1.9T Stimulus package has been approved. So how close is America back to being normal or is it even possible? We talk about it. David Simon, creator of The Wire is returning to Baltimore with a new story about corruption within the police force titled, We Own This City, but we’re going to speak with Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton, who is the brainchild and source behind the original reporting of the Gun Trace Task Force. You’re going to want to hear what he has to say. And let’s talk about madness... it’s March, so why aren’t we ready to fill out brackets this year?

One Year Later, We Still Have No Plan to Prevent the Next Pandemic

And yes, there could soon be another pandemic.

By Thomas L. Friedman, NYT Imagine that in December 2019 country X had a nuclear accident — a missile test gone awry. It resulted in a small nuclear explosion that sent a cloud of radioactivity around the world, causing 2.66 million deaths, plus trillions of dollars in health care costs and lost commerce that nearly triggered a global depression. What do you think we’d be talking about today? We’d be discussing a new global regime of nuclear weapons safety protocols to try to make sure it never happened again.

Opinion: Virus variants mean our covid winter isn’t over. Don’t ease restrictions now.

By Ashish K. Jha, for the Washington Post If you live in the northeastern part of our country, you don’t put your winter jackets into storage at the first sign of spring because you know a cold snap is likely lurking around the corner. The same must be true of the pandemic. No matter where you live, it is too early to relax restrictions that continue to have a critical role in controlling this pandemic. From California to Maine, Florida to Seattle, the covid-19 winter is not yet done, and highly infectious variants are threatening new storms.

The Clearest Sign the Pandemic Could Get Worse

Another coronavirus outbreak is unfolding in Michigan. The Atlantic Covid Tracking Project

The number of people hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States has been plummeting since early January. Until about three weeks ago, hospitalizations in Michigan were following the same pattern: More people with COVID-19 were leaving the hospital than were being admitted. But in the past few weeks, data from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services have shown that hospitalizations have risen by 45 percent from the state’s recent low on February 25. According to federal data, among U.S. metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, the Detroit area now ranks fourth in hospital admissions—and first in a metric that combines increases in test positivity and cases.

Capitalism Is What Will Defeat Covid

The vaccine revolution didn’t happen on its own. It’s a product of decades of planning and investment.

By Allysia Finley, for WSJ Behold the paradox of this pandemic moment: Large corporations are political villains, derided on the left and right. Yet the main, and perhaps only, reason the Covid-19 scourge is easing is vaccines developed by Big Pharma.

Naval Academy sets punishments to stop mids violating strict COVID restrictions

By Heather Mongilio, Capital Gazette

The first time a midshipman violated the Naval Academy’s rules intended to slow the spread of COVID 19 they face getting demerits, enough to be considered a major discipline offense but something like a parking ticket. The offense will also mean the loss of a weekend of liberty when it is restored and an additional seven days of restrictions when they are eased, according to a memo approved by the academy on March 11. Second offense adds another 50 demerits, another week of restrictions and another lost chance to get off the Yard for the weekend. Leaders of the Brigade of Midshipmen advocated letting the mids themselves stop classmates from breaking the restrictions, according to a March 11 email from Brigade Executive Officer Ashley Boddiford to members of the brigade.

D.C.’s Lost Year: How the pandemic upended lives and businesses across a region

By Emily Davies and Michael Brice-Saddler, The Washington Post

A little more than a year ago, we hugged and shook hands without fear. We laughed without masks covering our faces. We ate together, danced together, worked together and enjoyed each other’s company less than six feet apart. Then it all vanished. As the coronavirus shut down the nation and its capital, jazz music silenced on U Street. Gone were the lines outside the 9:30 Club and the drinks afterward at American Ice Company. Neighborhood boutiques and restaurants emptied. The pandemic replaced job security with automated responses from unemployment services, lines outside food banks and job applications. It robbed more than 50,000 jobs from D.C.

Mr. Biden, Enough With the Tough Talk on China

Modest measures can reverse the dangerous decay in relations.

By Ian Johnson, NYT

Since taking office nearly two months ago, the Biden administration has been a whirlwind of activity in reforming and revisiting almost every key problem area but one: the chaotic and incoherent China policy it inherited from the Trump administration. Top U.S. and Chinese officials met Thursday in Alaska for the first time since the new administration took power. The meeting, framed as little more than a chance for each side to state their well-known positions, fell short of even those low expectations.

Opinion: The Pentagon is using China as an excuse for huge new budgets

By Fareed Zakaria, for The Washington Post

On the eve of his visit this week to Asia, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin outlined his key concern. “China is our pacing threat,” he said. He explained that for the past 20 years, the United States had been focused on the Middle East while China had been modernizing its military. “We still maintain the edge,” he noted, “and we’re going to increase the edge going forward.” Welcome to the new age of bloated Pentagon budgets, all to be justified by the great Chinese threat.

How to Craft a Durable China Strategy

Washington Must Reconcile Interdependence and Conflict

By Evan Medeiros, for Foreign Affairs As President Joe Biden takes office, the United States’ China policy and U.S.-Chinese relations are both undergoing a revolution. Neither will be the same again. Over the past four years, the Trump administration questioned and rejected a number of long-standing U.S. policies, often adopting disruptive alternatives with mixed results. These changes produced bilateral volatility and a rapid negative shift in both elite and public opinion—and across the political spectrum—on China. Not since President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972 has such a fundamental shift taken place in American perceptions, strategies, and policies toward Beijing.

U.S.-Chinese Rivalry Is a Battle Over Values

Great-Power Competition Can’t Be Won on Interests Alone

By Hal Brands and Zack Cooper, for Foreign Affairs On the campaign trail, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to put values at the heart of his administration’s China policy. Since entering office, he has called on the world’s democracies to gird for a new era of strategic competition with China in which they “work together to secure the peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific.” Biden’s interim National Security Strategic Guidance labels democracy “our most fundamental advantage” and insists “our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future.” As the administration prepares for its first high-level meeting with Chinese officials this week, it has clearly embraced the view that the Washington-Beijing rivalry is driven by competing ideals and systems of government as much as by competing interests.

New High in Perceptions of China as U.S.'s Greatest Enemy

From Gallup Forty-five percent of Americans now say China is the greatest enemy of the U.S., more than double the percentage who said so in 2020. That year, Americans were equally as likely to say either China or Russia was the U.S.'s greatest enemy. The current shift coincided with a period when the global economy and human activity were severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China.

Another Big Step Toward Digitizing Our Lives

On Beeple, Nyan Cat and the latest tech phenom: the non-fungible token, or NFT.

By Kara Swisher, NYT

For those scratching their heads about the latest tech phenom called non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, I have one simple sentence to explain it all: Everything that can be digitized will be digitized. It was the same explanation I gave as the internet first went commercial in the early 1990s, when I started writing about the nascent medium. I was often asked the same questions by people who often thought of it as a fad: What exactly was on the internet? And why would I use it?

The Science of Making Americans Hurt Their Own Country

A new report lays bare why Russian disinformation succeeds.

By Anne Applebaum The National Intelligence Council has released an unclassified report assessing, retrospectively, foreign threats to the 2020 election. It has a few twists and turns: The Iranian government attempted to run some kind of online influence campaign; the Chinese government considered doing the same but then dropped the idea. But most of the report is about Russia. Unlike in 2016, Russian intelligence operatives weren’t in the business of hacking and leaking this time around. Instead they concentrated on planting what they would call kompromat. The NIC focuses in particular on the activity of Andriy Derkach, a Russian agent and Ukrainian citizen who used former President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to spread disinformation about Joe Biden and his family. The report also mentions Konstantin Kilimnik, another Russian agent, who was playing the same game.

Washington Post adds lengthy correction to report on Trump call with Georgia elections investigator

By Dominick Mastrangelo, The Hill

The Washington Post has added a lengthy correction to a bombshell report from early January that had said then-President Trump told Georgia's top elections investigator during a phone call to "find the fraud" and that they would be "a national hero" if they did so. "Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator. The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source," the Post said Thursday in a 129-word correction published atop the story. "Trump did not tell the investigator to 'find the fraud' or say she would be 'a national hero' if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find 'dishonesty' there. He also told her that she had 'the most important job in the country right now.'"

Troop levels, airstrikes, COVID vaccinations — How the Pentagon continually fails at transparency

By Jeff Schogol, Task and Purpose

If the Pentagon is committed to transparency, as it has claimed, then it continually finds a way to suspend the rules when it comes to providing the American public with timely and accurate data. The New York Times recently reported that the actual number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is closer to 3,500 than the 2,500 announced by then Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller on Jan. 15. The extra forces reportedly include temporary units and some Rangers who fall under both the CIA and Defense Department while in Afghanistan. Army Maj. Rob Lodewick, a Pentagon spokesman, insisted there really are 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, adding that he could not comment on the figures cited by the New York Times because they are “not official DoD numbers, they are media reporting.”

Veterans Groups Must Speak with One Voice Against the New Assault on American Values

By Retired Marine Corps Lt. Cols. Joe Plenzler and Scott Cooper, Opinion for

"Thank you for your service." Since 9/11, we have heard these words of appreciation. But what if, instead of enjoying America's admiration and respect, military veterans were automatically assumed to be disloyal insurrectionists seeking to overthrow the government? What would America look like if veterans were distrusted and considered dangerous to our civil liberties?

The Military Could Soon Face a Flag Officer Talent Crisis

Senior leader pay is seriously out of sync with the risks and responsibilities that come with the positions.

By Col. Charles Luke, Opinion for Defense One

Military service members received a heralded 3% pay increase under the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, but this increase camouflaged the continued stagnation in general and flag officer pay stemming from provisions in the 2015 NDAA six years prior. That law limits the pay of generals and admirals (officers in pay grades O7 and above) to the Executive Level II salary level for civilians. This pay cap limits current and retirement pay of senior executives to $199,300. While that may sound like an impressive amount of money, these are executive leaders responsible for organizations larger than any of the companies whose chief executives earn, on average, $21.3 million. As a result of the cap, officers stop receiving pay raises at the two star rank. It’s a limit that discourages continued service and makes it harder to keep talent at the highest levels of the military.

What a Compassionate Email Culture Looks Like

by Adaira Landry and Resa E. Lewiss, Harvard Business Review

Email culture is broken — and fixing it will require a concerted effort. To start, individuals must think bigger than protecting their own inboxes, focusing instead on reducing the collective email traffic of the team as a whole. We are all chasing the same elusive dream: an email inbox that is tidy, up-to-date, and empty. But let’s face it, inbox zero is difficult — and at times even impossible — to achieve. No matter how many subfolders we create or newsletters to which we unsubscribe, the emails arrive, and the undertow pulls us beneath the current. The instinct to manage only our personal inbox is insufficient. It’s time to flip the script on how we handle email. The secret? Focus on protecting other people’s inboxes rather than your own. The inversion may sound counterintuitive.

Russia gives Twitter one month to remove banned content or be blocked

By Rebecca Klaar, The Hill

An official at a Russian telecommunications watchdog warned that Moscow will block Twitter in one month unless the platform complies with demands to remove banned content. "Twitter has not properly responded to our requests. If the things go the same way, it will be blocked out of court in a month," Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, told the Interfax News Agency. Twitter declined to comment in response to the Russian warning.

How every communicator can deliver authentic, powerful messaging that resonates

By Robby Brumberg, PR Daily

Earning trust through authenticity. The main factor that determines whether communication fails or succeeds often boils down to trust. Does your audience trust you? If they do, they’ll listen to what you have to say. Do your execs trust you? If they do, they’ll seek you out as an advisor and share candid thoughts instead of giving you surface-level drivel.

The Identity Hoaxers

What if people don’t just invent medical symptoms to get attention—what if they feign oppression, too?

By Helen Lewis

The confession, when it came, did not hold back. “For the better part of my adult life, every move I’ve made, every relationship I’ve formed, has been rooted in the napalm toxic soil of lies,” read the Medium post. It was published in September under the name of Jessica A. Krug, a George Washington University professor specializing in Black history. Krug had, she said, variously assumed the identities of “North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.” She was actually a white Jewish woman from Kansas. “You absolutely should cancel me,” Krug wrote in her self-dramatizing mea culpa, “and I absolutely cancel myself.”

Majority of Black Health Care Workers Doubt COVID-19 Vaccines Safe, Poll Finds

By Benjamin Fearnow, Newsweek

A majority of Black frontline health care workers in the U.S. say they have doubts that any of the three COVID-19 vaccines are safe, a new survey finds. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Friday found that 48 percent of health care workers overall remain unvaccinated across the country, including doctors, nurses, home health aides and housekeepers. The survey was conducted among 1,327 U.S. frontline health workers whose jobs routinely put them in direct contact with potential coronavirus patients.

America Has Forgotten How to Forgive

The revolt against Alexi McCammond shows that even Teen Vogue doesn’t think teens deserve a sin jubilee. By Graeme Wood, The Atlantic Yesterday afternoon, Condé Nast, the publisher of Teen Vogue, announced that Alexi McCammond, a 27-year-old former reporter for Axios, would not be taking over as editor of the magazine after all. She had been done in by her own social-media posts, little time bombs she’d unwittingly armed when she tweeted them at age 17. Those posts groaned about her “stupid asian T.A.” and mocked Asians’ “swollen eyes.” She apologized for the tweets in 2019. The Teen Vogue staff discovered these comments, spurned the apology, and revolted.

How to spot a fake video

By Elyse Samuels, Sarah Cahlan, Emily Sabens, WashPost

Have you ever felt like you can’t trust all the video on your newsfeed? Videos are often misrepresented or manipulated these days, with few tools on how to determine what’s real versus fake. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker team put together a guide to teach you how to be your own video investigator.

The New Rule of Politics Is Never Saying You’re Sorry

By Ryan Teague Beckwith, Bloomberg

Susan Wise Bauer’s editor reached out to her last year about updating her 2008 book The Art of the Public Grovel, about how politicians apologize when accused of sexual misdeeds. Given the #MeToo movement and claims against Donald Trump, her editor said, a new edition might sell well. This time, it was Bauer’s turn to say sorry. “I just don’t know what I would write,” Bauer, a historian, recalls saying. “No one really apologizes anymore.”

More Steals, No Shifts and Robot Umps: ‘Our Fans Want the Action’

By Tyler Kepner, NYTimes Major League Baseball, it must be said, remains wildly popular. It has by far the longest schedule of any major sport — 162 games per season — yet averaged more than 28,000 fans per game in 2019, more than every other season between 1876 and 1993. But attendance dropped in each of the four seasons before the pandemic, and in teams’ quest for power and efficiency, the game may have lost some of its soul. Even Francisco Lindor, the Mets’ effervescent 27-year-old shortstop, yearns for a more complete version of the sport he loves.

NCAA's Dan Gavitt apologizes to women's basketball teams for disparity in NCAA weight-training facilities

By Mechelle Voepel, ESPN

NCAA vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt apologized Friday in a video conference with media, acknowledging the NCAA fell short in regard to the large disparity in weight-training facilities in particular at the men's and women's tournaments in Indianapolis and San Antonio, respectively. He also said he hopes the ensuing furor, which was publicized on social media, helps the NCAA do a better job with internal communication.

And Finally...

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