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Weekly Update 16-22 Nov 20

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

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Top Clips

By Ed Young, The Atlantic After the SARS outbreak of 2003, its staff began specifically preparing for emerging infections. The center has the nation’s only federal quarantine facility and its largest biocontainment unit, which cared for airlifted Ebola patients in 2014. The people on staff had detailed pandemic plans. They ran drills. Ron Klain, who was President Barack Obama’s “Ebola czar” and will be Joe Biden’s chief of staff in the White House, once told me that UNMC is “arguably the best in the country” at handling dangerous and unusual diseases. There’s a reason many of the Americans who were airlifted from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February were sent to UNMC.

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Washington Post

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced they plan to file Friday for emergency authorization of their coronavirus vaccine, a landmark moment and a signal that a powerful tool to help control the pandemic could begin to be available by mid- to late December. The U.S. race to develop a vaccine has set scientific speed records since it launched in January, and the submission of a first application to regulators cements that. The filing is a significant step in the effort to develop a vaccine and will move the race to its next, deliberative phase — a weeks-long process in which career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration scrutinize the data and determine if the vaccine is safe and effective to be used in a broad population. Clinical trials have show that a coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is 95 percent effective at preventing the illness.

Children have suffered because many mayors and governors were too willing to close public schools. By Nicholas Kristof, NYT

Some things are true even though President Trump says them. Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.

By Emily Oster, Washington Post As covid-19 surges nationwide, the debate over school reopening has intensified. On one side are arguments that schools are not major sources of spread. On the other, we hear of schools with significant rates of infection. In response, many districts are delaying plans to bring back their students. On Wednesday, New York City announced that the nation’s largest district — one of the first to open for in-person instruction — would join the ranks of cities closing their public schools.

By Barbara Starr, CNN

The US military reported a record high number of coronavirus cases on Tuesday with 1,314 new cases, according to Defense Department statistics. There are currently about 25,000 active Covid-19 cases in the ranks, and another 44,390 service members have recovered from the virus, according to the Pentagon. The number of military cases has grown over the last few weeks as case counts have increased in the general population.

By David Brooks, NYT

After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself.

By Mary McCauley, Capital Gazette

Anna McComber’s 4-year-old son, Leonardo, had a big worry on his mind: “My little boy asked me, 'Will Santa Claus get the corona?” McComber said, laughing a little ruefully. “He was afraid that Santa might die from COVID-19 and he wouldn’t get any presents this Christmas. I told him, ‘No, Santa is special. He doesn’t get sick. His immune system is strong. He’s like Captain America.”

Being president is a tremendously difficult job. Starting the first day without preparation could set up a presidency to fail.

By John Dickerson, The Atlantic In his new memoir, Barack Obama reveals that there was a terrorist threat on his Inauguration Day. As he addressed the nation, he was prepared to interrupt himself to read evacuation instructions for the millions gathered on the National Mall. Obama had been in the job just seconds, and he was experiencing his first stomach drop—the possibility of a mass-casualty event.

By Samantha Power, for Foreign Affairs Ever since then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright memorably called the United States “indispensable” more than two decades ago, both Americans and publics abroad have vigorously debated the proposition. Today, as President Donald Trump’s term comes to a close, foreign observers of the United States are more prone to use a different word: “incompetent.”

By Josh Rogin, Washington Post

Beijing is trying to convince the incoming Biden administration that the U.S.-China relationship can be smooth and positive — but only if Washington dumps the Trump administration’s policies, ignores China’s worst behaviors and pretends everything is fine. That scheme depends on convincing President-elect Joe Biden that maintaining harmony in U.S.-China relations is more important than anything else — a flawed and dangerous premise.

The Trump administration is taking on China’s illegal catch—and Biden should do the same.

By Blake Herzinger, Foreign Policy

The People’s Republic of China leads the world in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF). With a fishing fleet that numbers up to 800,000 boats by some estimates, China depleted its own domestic fisheries long ago. Through generous subsidies and government direction, the Chinese Communist Party has subsequently incentivized part of its fleet to travel further afield to satisfy both China’s domestic consumption and the international market. Despite this, China has avoided any tangible consequences for its actions, while smaller states are strong-armed into compliance with international standards and maritime law. With a growing number of fishing-related policy announcements, it appears that the United States is preparing the groundwork for launching a new salvo in the U.S.-China competition as the time runs out for President Donald Trump’s administration.

By Nina Jankowicz, Foreign Affairs The 2016 U.S. presidential election propelled the threat of disinformation to the forefront of public debate. Americans were shocked by Russian attempts to influence voters by spreading misleading narratives. They had never imagined that a foreign power might use social media and other modern technologies to interfere in their elections.

By John Grady, USNI

The Navy’s and Marine Corps’ capability, capacity and readiness to counter major powers like China and Russia or regional threats like Iran and North Korea was graded as “marginal” in a new survey of military power. The Heritage Foundation 2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength graded the Pentagon “marginal” overall to handle two major regional wars simultaneously. In the eyes of the more than 20 authors, the U.S. armed forces are capable of handling one major regional conflict, but their capability is questionable after that.

By Sara Fischer, Axios

The pandemic has been a nightmare for thousands of journalists out of work —and for additional thousands trying to navigate jobs amid fear and uncertainty. Why it matters: Recent departures, deals, layoffs and restructurings amid the pandemic have journalists questioning whether there's stability anywhere within the industry.

In their first news conference since arriving Monday night, the astronauts talk about their trip and conditions aboard the International Space Station

By Christian Davenport, Washington Post

He had flown on the space shuttle and the Russian Soyuz. And now after flying the SpaceX Dragon capsule, Soichi Noguchi is only the third person, after John Young and Wally Schirra, to travel to orbit in three different vehicles. Asked Thursday how the three compared, Noguchi didn’t hesitate. “For the record, Dragon is the best,” the Japanese astronaut said. “Short answer.”

Opinion by Kathleen Parker, Washington Post

Pity the poor authors whose books were released this week. Former president Barack Obama’s post-presidential memoir, “A Promised Land,” has rightly stolen the show.Volume one, released Tuesday, is a 768-page doorstop apt for the moment, as history’s door stands ajar. While we await recounts, a presidential concession and the dark orbit of the covid-19 pandemic, Obama’s latest memoir reminds us of where we’ve been and how we arrived at this crucial, democracy-mocking hinge in American history. Yet, even as he means to clarify and contextualize his decisions for future readers, one suspects that he’s trying to lend a moral order to his presidency for his own edification as well.

By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, NY Times

Here’s How. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., eager to elevate climate change issues throughout his administration, is already drafting orders to reduce planet-warming pollution and seeking nominees who will embed climate policy not only in environmental agencies but in departments from Defense to Treasury to Transportation. Top candidates for senior cabinet posts, such as Michèle Flournoy for defense secretary and Lael Brainard for Treasury, have long supported aggressive policies to curb climate change.

Experts weigh in on defining the American brand, how it’s been damaged or changed most, and how it can be saved.

By Jeff Beer, Fast Company

This story is part of Fast Company’s “USA: Can This Brand Be Saved?” package, approaching the question from a variety of angles and perspectives, ultimately aiming for an in-depth look at what America’s brand is, how it’s changed over the past four years, and where it needs to go from here.

By Stephanie Scotti, Smart Brief There’s no question about it: Mastering audience engagement is key to delivering a powerhouse presentation. And with attention spans shrinking (or perhaps evolving), it’s clear that you have seconds -- not minutes -- to win your audience over. That’s a lot of pressure. But don’t panic.

By Kasia Moreno, for Forbes The pandemic has revolutionized—or, more precisely, virtualized—the way people communicate. With remote work, distance learning and virtual socializing, Covid-19 has made videoconferencing a central part of our daily lives. The increased use of virtual communications has led people to discover new possibilities and opportunities of interacting with each other, both at work and in their personal lives.

By Dais Johnson, Inverse

WHEN STAR WARS RELEASES A NEW FLAGSHIP MOVIE, the world pays attention. However, the movie itself is usually pretty predictable. There are going to be Jedi, they're going to fight the Sith, there's going to be multiple planets, some sort of galactic warfare, and finally a lightsaber battle. This formula isn't a flaw — in fact, it's a recipe that's proven hugely popular time after time even as critics complained of Star Wars fatigue. Then, The Mandalorian premiered. Instead of using Star Wars's tried and true formula to tell a single type of story, it adopted countless others. Here's how it's changing the way we think about Star Wars, and how that could alter the course of the entire franchise.

By Judy Kurtz, The Hill

Kurt Russell says Hollywood and politics just don't mix and that actors should "step away from saying anything" political. "I’ve always been someone who felt we are court jesters. That’s what we do," the "Furious 7" star said in an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday. "As far as I’m concerned, you should step away from saying anything so that you can still be seen by the audience in any character," added Russell, 69.

By Tim Schwartz, Capital Gazette

The Capital’s Bill Wagner has been named a finalist for Maryland Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Wagner, an Annapolis native who has covered Navy athletics since 2001, said he has dedicated his life to covering athletics in his hometown and called it “a labor of love.”

By Kevin Draper, NYT

Major League Soccer reduced its workforce by about 20 per cent Thursday through a combination of layoffs and the elimination of open positions, yet another sign of the punishing financial effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on professional sports.

By Associated Press The World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers issued layoffs in the organization Wednesday as a result of revenue losses sustained during the coronavirus pandemic. “Since March, we have worked hard to minimize the impact on our employees,” the team said in a statement. “The ongoing economic crisis, however, forces us to make difficult personnel decisions throughout the organization, going forward for the 2021 season.”

The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review

And Finally...

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