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Weekly Update 17-23 May 21

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

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Top Clips

Has Biden Changed? He Tells Us.

By David Brooks, NYT

What happened to Joe Biden? Many people thought he was a moderate incrementalist, but now he’s promoting whopping big legislative packages that make many on the progressive left extremely happy. I asked him that when I spoke on the phone with him this week. The answer seems to be — it’s complicated. The values that drive him have been utterly consistent over the decades, and the policies he is proposing now are similar to those he’s been championing for decades.

Enough of Zoom—Office Happy Hours Return

After months of virtual meetings, some employees are finding ways to get back to in-person socials and the connections they had missed

By Ray A. Smith, The Wall Street Journal

They made do for a while with Zoom happy hours. But as coronavirus cases eased, office workers at KDG, a professional technology services company in Allentown, Pa., were eager to get together for drinks in person. Meeting on the building’s outdoor deck, about 35 employees, all still working from home, brought their own booze. Food was individually packaged. Those attending had to stay six feet apart, and bathroom doors were labeled as entrances and exits. “Once we decided to do it, we were very clear that if you’re going to come to the happy hour, here are the rules. They’re not breakable rules,” says the company’s chief executive Kyle H. David.

Black Troops Have Lowest COVID-19 Vaccination Rates in DoD, Study Finds

By Patricia Kime,

COVID-19 vaccination disparities are emerging across race, ethnicity, education and age among U.S. troops, according to a new review by Defense Department health officials. Black service members had the lowest vaccination rates of all races, at 18.7%, while personnel identified as Asian or Pacific Islander had the highest, at 32.8%. Roughly 29% of all White troops and 25.7% of Hispanic service members had been vaccinated, according to the study. The report, published last week in the Defense Health Agency's Military Surveillance Monthly Report, was designed to assess overall vaccine initiation and completion in the early months of vaccine availability within the Defense Department, according to the authors.

Pro-Vaccine Sentiment Grew 8% on Twitter in March, April

By Nicole Schuman, PR News

Covid vaccine dosage bottles lined up for those wishing to get the vaccine.

The pro-vax conversation volume grew 8 percent on Twitter in March and April, whereas the neutral-vax community's fell 16.2 percent as its members made decisions and took a side, a new study shows. The study examined more than 2 million posts published in the United States between Nov. 2020 and April 2021. Other findings in the study reveal not only the divide in conversation among the pro- and anti-vax communities, but spikes in topical information.

New Strategies for Calming Your Pandemic Anxiety

By Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal

Is anxiety a habit that we can break? A leading anxiety researcher argues that habits can fuel our worry, and suggests two surprising strategies to combat it: Curiosity and kindness. Judson Brewer, who is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, is the author of the new book “Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind.” He is the director of research and innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center and an associate professor in the university’s medical school and school of public health. He specializes in helping people cope with addiction and create better habits.

Opinion: A seismic standoff over remote work is building

By Tracy Moore, for The Washington Post The pandemic finally seems to be easing its grip on the United States, nudging us back into public life, friendly visits, even travel. But going back to the office full-time? According to most workers, the answer is simple: I would prefer not to. Not yet. Not every day, anyway — and maybe not ever. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that the old way of working left little room for living. Between our fragile mental health and a work world desperate to have us slot back in, something has to give. The obvious answer is a new model that allows for in-office, hybrid or fully remote work. But it’s an open question how many workplaces agree.

What’s Safe for Kids Now?

Parents need to hear from the CDC.

By Emily Oster, Economist at Brown University for The Atlantic Parents of young children have some pressing questions for the CDC. In recent guidance, the public-health agency suggested that fully vaccinated individuals can burn their masks and never wear a face covering again. (I’m exaggerating. Masks are still required on public transit and in medical facilities, among other places.) Meanwhile, unvaccinated people should continue to mask inside as well as at crowded outdoor venues. The sound scientific basis for these recommendations is that the vaccines are excellent, work well against the new variants, and seem to protect against even asymptomatic disease and transmission. Vaccinated people are quite safe from COVID-19, the odd breakthrough case notwithstanding. Many states have accordingly dropped their mandates. You can now shop unmasked in the Providence, Rhode Island, Whole Foods near where I live (though practically no one does).

It’s Not Confusing That Americans are Confused about Masks

By Seth Arenstein, PR News

Last week’s CDC mask announcement has Americans confused. It’s clear why, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the better communicators on pandemic issues. "I think people are misinterpreting [the CDC guidance], thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It's not," Fauci tells Mike Allen of Axios. What the CDC means, Fauci says, is that vaccinated Americans can feel safe both indoors and out without wearing masks. Instead, Fauci says, Americans are thinking "'You don't need the mask anymore.' That's not what the CDC said.” What it said, Fauci says, was: “If you are vaccinated, you can feel safe…It did not explicitly say that unvaccinated people should abandon their masks."

The legal dilemma behind saying ‘safety is our No. 1 priority’

You might really mean it, but the well-intentioned message could open you up to lawsuits warns one legal expert.

By Robert F. Tyson, PR Daily

Businesses are reopening and many marketers have been so focused on trying to bring back customers after COVID-19 shutdowns, they haven’t thought about the long-term harm their current messages might bring. Now, defense lawyers around the country are preparing for the worst. The problem? Whether on social media, in an advertisement or signage, saying “safety is our No. 1 priority” puts you at risk of a major lawsuit.

Trump Justice Dept. secretly obtained CNN correspondent’s phone, email records

By Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post

The Justice Department under President Donald Trump secretly obtained the phone and email records of CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, according to that news network and a Justice Department spokesman, again illustrating how the previous administration was willing to seek journalists’ data to investigate disclosures of information it preferred to remain secret. CNN reported Thursday that the department had informed Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr that it had obtained her phone and email records for the two-month period between June 1, 2017, and July 31, 2017. In that time frame, according to CNN, Starr reported on options the military had prepared to present to Trump on North Korea, U.S. action on a possible planned chemical attack in Syria and a military policy change to suspend the public release of information about American combat deaths in Afghanistan.

Once in Thrall of ‘the Generals,’ Congress Now Gives the Orders on Military Issues

The shift mirrors broader societal frustrations after two decades of wars, a pervasive problem of sexual assault and harassment of female troops and the exposure of political extremism in the ranks.

By Jennifer Steinhauer, NYT

President Bill Clinton, newly elected and eager to fulfill a central campaign promise, moved in 1993 to end a ban on gay men and women in the military, but he was stymied by senior military officers, who coordinated with a deferential Democratic senator, Sam Nunn of Georgia. More than 15 years later, Mr. Clinton’s messy compromise, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” was repealed, but only after a new generation of senior Defense Department officials told a hushed panel of reverent senators that the time had come.

The Army disabled comments on new recruiting commercials amid criticism it’s too ‘woke’

“Each soldier in ‘The Calling’ has their own unique background and story to tell."

By Haley Britzky, Task and Purpose The Army has disabled comments on a series of new recruiting commercials meant to reach potential recruits from all backgrounds after being bombarded by criticism that the service is “woke.” The new series called “The Calling,” posted to YouTube on May 4, showcases real soldiers and their stories in an animated format. One video features a corporal who discusses her “fairly typical childhood” in which she took ballet and played the violin, and also “marched for equality” with her two moms. She was looking for a challenge, she said, and a “way to prove my inner strength” when she decided to join the Army. Another video features a first lieutenant who immigrated to Florida from Haiti with his family as a child. He joined JROTC in school and decided he would join the Army during a touching ceremony marking the anniversary of September 11.

These Are the First Military Bases Whose Confederate Names Could Be Changed

By Stephen Losey,

The military is starting its review to rename bases or other assets that commemorate the Confederate States of America, or people who willingly served with the Confederacy, by looking at 10 Army forts. Starting this summer and continuing into the fall, a commission tasked with renaming these facilities will visit and consider Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and four locations in Virginia, including Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Belvoir, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett, Retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, who chairs the commission, said in a news conference Friday.

Competition, not war, with China is the future, top Marine says

By Philip Athey, Marine Corps Times

War with China is not inevitable, but it will take an all-of-government approach to deter it, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said Tuesday. The Marine Corps is currently going through a massive period of experimentation and reorganization with a focus on keeping up with the “pacing threat” China poses and ultimately winning a war if one comes. The commandant said he has spent the past decade studying China as it was adopting increasingly aggressive foreign policy goals.

The Pentagon Has Never Passed An Audit. Some Senators Want To Change That

By Bill Chappell, NPR

When the Pentagon launched its first-ever independent financial audit back in 2017, backers of accountability in government welcomed it as a major step for a department with a track record of financial boondoggles. But the Defense Department failed that audit – and the next two as well. Now lawmakers are introducing a bipartisan bill that would impose a penalty for any part of the military that fails to undergo a "clean" audit. "The Pentagon and the military industrial complex have been plagued by a massive amount of waste, fraud and financial mismanagement for decades. That is absolutely unacceptable," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, along with Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Lawmakers Grill Pentagon Officials on How to Prevent Another Colonial Pipeline-Style Attack

By John Grady, USNI

Members of a key cyber panel wanted to know why the Department of Homeland Security wasn’t alerted to the ransomware attack that set off panic-buying of gasoline and whether the Pentagon could have taken measures to stop it before it happened. Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.) said at Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services cyber subcommittee hearing that what happened when the Colonial Pipeline was shut down “was an attack to me” coming from outside the U.S. and had implications for the Pentagon.

Fincantieri Marinette nabs $553.9M for second Constitution-class frigate

By Christen McCurdy, UPI

The Navy has awarded a $553.9 million contract option to Fincantieri Marinette Marine to build a second Constellation-class guided missile frigate, the service announced Thursday. The future USS Congress is designed to have multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare, and information operations, the Navy said."The Navy Program Office is pleased to award the option for the USS Congress (FFG 63) to our industry partner Fincantieri Marinette Marine," Capt. Kevin Smith, major program manager for Constellation Class Frigate, said in the Navy's release.

Kayla Barron Joins NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 Mission to Space Station


NASA has assigned Kayla Barron to serve as a mission specialist for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station, which is targeted to launch as early as Oct. 23. This will be the first spaceflight for Barron, who became a NASA astronaut in January 2020 after completing two years of training. She will join NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn, as the mission’s commander and pilot, respectively, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, who also will serve as a mission specialist. Barron was born in Pocatello, Idaho, but considers Richland, Washington, her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2010.

Semper Fi & America’s Fund Releases 2020 Annual Report, Marks 17th Anniversary of its Founding

Press Release

Semper Fi & America’s Fund (The Fund) today published its 2020 annual report. Today’s release of the Annual Report coincides with the 17th anniversary of the founding of The Fund started by Marine spouses who immediately jumped in to provide bedside support to early wounded and injured service members from Iraq and Afghanistan. The model of lifelong relationships between service members and the Semper Fi & America’s Fund team is unique among veterans service organizations. The Fund is one of only two veteran-serving nonprofits to receive an A+ from Charity Watch and has held a 4/4-star rating from Charity Navigator for the past ten years – something achieved by only two percent of rated charities.

Sea Trials are back, and with them a sense of Naval Academy normalcy

By Heather Mongilio, Capital Gazette

Plebes took to the Yard and the Naval Support Activity Tuesday to participate in a grueling day of physical activity. The Sea Trials are back at the Naval Academy. After a year affected by COVID-19, the return of Sea Trials is meant to bring a sense of normalcy back to the Naval Academy. A chance to show the plebes what life at the academy is when there is no pandemic. Last year, because midshipmen were being sent home during spring break, Sea Trials was instead E-Trials and done virtually.

The Anxiety of Influencers

Educating the TikTok generation

By Barrett Swanson, Harpers It’s noon in Los Angeles toward the end of the Plague Year, and I’m lounging on the patio of a swanky three-floor mansion, watching a scrum of teenage boys perform trending TikTok dances. Arranged in a tidy delta formation near the jacuzzi and pool, the five boys smile into the glare of a ring light, at the center of which is affixed a smartphone recording their moves. These boys possess a teenybopper cuteness and, because they’re between the ages of eighteen and twenty, they have noisomely strong metabolisms and thus go shirtless pretty much all of the time, displaying either the ectomorphic thinness of trees or greyhounds or, in one boy’s case especially, the sharply delineated musculature of a really big insect. They bite their lower lips, and their expressions are—I’m sorry, there’s no other way to describe them—precoital.

Selfies, Surgeries And Self-Loathing: Inside The Facetune Epidemic

The massively popular photo-editing app Facetune is driving a generation of young women to extreme and obsessive lengths to look flawless online.

By Jesselyn Cook, HuffPost Sky Lane scrolled through the pictures from an impromptu photo shoot she’d done with her friend and picked her favorite. It was cute — she was showing off her side profile in a black crop top, tight blue jeans, big silver hoops and smoky bronze eyeshadow. But the 21-year-old wouldn’t dare post it to Instagram for the world to see just yet. She opened Facetune, a photo-retouching app on her iPhone, and got to work.

The Associated Press terminates new staffer amid uproar over tweets about Israel and Palestinians, sparking backlash

Emily Wilder’s history of politically charged tweets was aired by the Stanford College Republicans after she got her new job

By Jeremy Barr, The Washington Post

Emily Wilder started a new job as a news associate for the Associated Press on May 3. Just 16 days later, she was called and told that she had been terminated for violating the company’s social media policy. “It’s really devastating,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview on Thursday evening. Wilder was not told which of her social media posts had violated company policy, she said, just that “I had showed clear bias.” A spokesperson for the wire service confirmed that “she was dismissed for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP.”

Media mogul Byron Allen files $10B lawsuit against McDonald’s, alleging racial discrimination in its ad spending

By Jocelyn Allison, Chicago Tribune

McDonald’s has been hit with a $10 billion racial discrimination lawsuit from media companies owned by Byron Allen. The lawsuit alleges the Chicago-based burger chain pays higher prices to advertise with general market media companies than it does Black-owned companies, which submit pitches through a separate tier for content targeting African American audiences.

Food Supply Chains Are Stretched as Americans Head Back to Restaurants

By Jennifer Smith and Paul Page, WSJ

Americans are returning to restaurants, bars and other dining places as Covid-19 restrictions come down, adding new strains in food supply chains. Suppliers and logistics providers say distributors are facing shortages of everyday products like chicken parts, as well as difficulty in finding workers and surging transportation costs as companies effectively try to reverse the big changes in food services that came as coronavirus lockdowns spread across the U.S. last year.

Target, Whole Foods, ShopRite and Other Retailers Look to Upgrade Their Store Brands

By Bruce Horovitz, WSJ

Ask most consumers about retailers’ store brands, and no doubt a handful of similar adjectives come to mind. Plain. Boring. Mediocre. Inexpensive. Now, many of the nation’s biggest retailers—including Target , CVS , Whole Foods and ShopRite —are out to change that image. They are seeking to accomplish a delicate balancing act, projecting upscale charm and a healthier lifestyle, while keeping the budget-friendly prices. Sometimes it’s a question of the name. Sometimes it’s the packaging. Sometimes it’s the quality of the product. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three.

Chicago’s mayor limits interviews to reporters of color. Now they’re caught in the middle.

By Kim Bellware, WashPost

It was meant to be a gift of sorts, for the second anniversary of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s inauguration: The leader of the country’s third-largest city was offering sit-down interviews exclusively to reporters of color. In a letter sent Wednesday to local media, Lightfoot argued that the overwhelming maleness and Whiteness of Chicago’s press corps — in a city where roughly two-thirds of the residents are people of color — did not adequately reflect the population and was a detriment to local media coverage.

Confessions of a Career Government Bureaucrat

Providing a good life for my family came at the cost of dedicating my career to mostly meaningless work.

By Ed O’Neal, for The Wall. Street Journal At the beginning of my 32-year career as a government employee, I saw myself as an engineer first. I believed engineering, and by extension my role as a federal and county-level employee, was about listening, studying and solving problems. For years, I held on to that belief. The most meaningful and productive time in my career came in the 1980s, when I was a mechanical and marine engineer at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in Southern California. It was an unorthodox workplace filled with rough characters—some ex-convicts, some combat veterans, some both. If a guy there didn’t like you, he’d tell you, often in colorful language. Sometimes fights would break out on the job, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t already seen growing up in San Bernardino, Calif.

What Introverts and Extroverts Can Learn From Each Other

Going against your instincts can help make you happier.

By Arthur C. Brooks, for The Atlantic A year before the pandemic changed all of our lives, a friend sent me a link to a survey based on academic research that rates your personality traits on a numeric scale. He was particularly keen to know my extroversion score, to see if the test was accurate. His results had shown that he scored at the 15th percentile. He sent it to me as the most extroverted person he knows. Sure enough, I scored at the 96th percentile. “Lucky you,” he remarked, “extroverts are a lot happier.” He was right about that, on average. Decades of research have consistently shown that extroverts have a significant happiness edge over introverts. They report higher levels of general well-being as well as more frequent moments of joy.

'Vulture' Fund Alden Global, Known For Slashing Newsrooms, Buys Tribune Papers

By David Folkenflik, NPR

The New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital – known for slashing its newspapers' budgets to extract escalated profits – won shareholder approval Friday for its $633 million bid to acquire the Tribune Publishing newspaper chain. The purchase represents the culmination of Alden's years-long drive to take over the company and its storied titles – including the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, New York Daily News and major metro papers from Hartford, Conn., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Stanford says it won’t cut sports after lawsuits and pressure from athletes

By Glynn A. Hill and Molly Hensley-Clancy, The Washington Post

When Stanford University announced in July that it would cut close to a third of its varsity sports, it sparked a backlash from athletes and alumni, raised concerns about the future of the U.S. Olympic pipeline and led, last week, to a pair of lawsuits against the school. Now the school is reversing course. University officials Tuesday announced Stanford will continue competing in the sports it had planned to cut after this academic year, citing “an improved financial picture with increased fundraising potential.”

‘What are we even doing here?’: Around baseball, players raise concerns about pitchers’ use of foreign substances

By Ken Rosenthal and Brittany Ghiroli, TheAthletic

Riding the bus back to the team hotel after a recent game, members of a National League club passed around the ball from a rookie’s first hit. The players were stunned by how sticky the ball was — how hours after the ball was taken out of play, they were still picking glue strands off the rawhide.

“What are we even doing here?” a pitcher on that team said.

Many in the game are asking the same question about pitchers who illegally apply foreign substances to baseballs. The problem remains rampant even in a season when Major League Baseball says it is taking additional steps to enforce rules prohibiting such conduct, including examining balls from every pitcher.

And Finally...

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