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Weekly Update 18-24 Jan 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

By David Brooks, NYT

Most calls to “national unity” are vacuous pap. They are unrealistic, kumbaya pleas to “come together” around nothing. But, as Richard Hughes Gibson wrote this week in The Hedgehog Review, the best calls to national unity are arguments. They are aggressive calls to come together around a specific idea of America, a specific national project. What idea of America does Joe Biden call us to unite around? It’s the old one. As Walt Whitman understood, America was founded mostly by people fleeing the remnants of feudalism, the stratified caste societies of Europe.


In less than 24 hours, the L.A. resident went from under 100,000 Twitter followers @TheAmandaGorman to 1.1 million. She went from 206,000 Instagram followers to 2.2 million. A pair of books Gorman has coming in September hit No. 1 and No. 2 on Amazon. Penguin Young Readers said her inauguration poem will be published in a special edition this spring. Gorman helped inspire — along with Vice President Harris — the Twitter hashtag "#BlackGirlMagic." Read her poem.

By John Dickerson, The Atlantic Joe Biden has a real shot at being a boring president. It will require constant work. Many forces of commerce and human nature are arrayed against him, and countless obstacles stand in his path. But if the country is lucky, entire days will pass without the president's activities agitating the public mind.

Folks, we just survived something really crazy awful: four years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a network without integrity, each pumping out conspiracy theories without truth, brought directly to our brains by social networks without ethics — all heated up by a pandemic without mercy. It’s amazing that our whole system didn’t blow, because the country really had become like a giant overheated steam engine. What we saw in the Capitol last week were the bolts and hinges starting to come loose. The departure of Donald J. Trump from the White House and the depletion of his enablers’ power in the Senate aren’t happening a second too soon.

By Taneshisi Coates, The Atlantic I’ve been thinking about Barbara Tuchman’s medieval history, A Distant Mirror, over the past couple of weeks. The book is a masterful work of anti-romance, a cold-eyed look at how generations of aristocrats and royalty waged one of the longest wars in recorded history, all while claiming the mantle of a benevolent God. The disabusing begins early. In the introduction, Tuchman examines the ideal of chivalry and finds, beneath the poetry and codes of honor, little more than myth and delusion.Knights “were supposed, in theory, to serve as defenders of the Faith, upholders of justice, champions of the oppressed,” Tuchman writes. “In practice, they were themselves the oppressors, and by the 14th century, the violence and lawlessness of men of the sword had become a major agency of disorder.”

By Alexandra Jaffe and Zeke Miller, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a proven political strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver. President Joe Biden, in his first three days in office, has painted a bleak picture of the country’s immediate future, warning Americans that it will take months, not weeks, to reorient a nation facing a historic convergence of crises. The dire language is meant as a call to action, but it’s also a deliberate effort to temper expectations. In addition, it is an explicit rejection of President Donald Trump’s tack of talking down the coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll.

By Bryan Walsh, Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants. Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools. Driving the news: On Thursday, Biden signed an executive order laying out his administration's response to COVID-19, which builds on a proposed coronavirus relief package that would include $130 billion in additional aid for K-12 schools.

By Ryan Gabrielson, Caroline Chen and Mollie Simon, for Propublica The U.S. Response to COVID-19ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. As reports emerge across the country of health facilities throwing out unused and spoiled COVID-19 vaccines, some state governments are failing to track the wastage as required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving officials coordinating immunization efforts blind to exactly how many of the precious, limited doses are going into the trash and why.

By Jimmy Vielkind, Wall Street Journal

More than a quarter of New York state residents don’t plan to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to a poll released Tuesday. A Siena College Research Institute survey of 804 state voters found that Black, Latino and younger New Yorkers were the most likely to say they don’t plan to get a shot, which first became available on Dec. 14. Seven percent of poll respondents said they had already been vaccinated. Of the remaining voters surveyed, 69% said they planned to get vaccinated, 27% said they didn’t plan to get a shot and 4% refused to answer. The poll, taken last week, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

By Felix Salmon, Axios

Trust in traditional media has declined to an all-time low, and many news professionals are determined to do something about it. Why it matters: Faith in society's central institutions, especially in government and the media, is the glue that holds society together. That glue was visibly dissolving a decade ago, and has now, for many millions of Americans, disappeared entirely. By the numbers: For the first time ever, fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media, according to data from Edelman's annual trust barometer shared exclusively with Axios. Trust in social media has hit an all-time low of 27%.

By Margaret Sullivan, The. Washington Post

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was prepared. She was professional. She was noncombative.And she didn’t peddle a whopper of a lie, the way Sean Spicer did on Day One four years ago with his “alternative facts” about the supposedly record-breaking size of the inaugural crowd. The first official words by President Biden’s spokeswoman included truth and transparency. “Rebuilding trust with the American people will be central to our focus,” the former State Department spokeswoman told a small group of socially distanced reporters as she promised a return to daily briefings.

At a time when large portions of the country think mainstream media is a tool of the left, perhaps it’s time to tone down the Biden adulation. By Jack Shafer, Politico Washington’s public works department should have built an emergency system of drainage ditches, culverts and tunnels to divert into the Potomac River the torrents of praise, approval and adoration the press poured down on President Joe Biden on Inauguration Day. At one point in the early evening, citizens living in low-lying portions of the city were at risk of drowning in the flash flood of commendations that flowed during the day-long pageant.

By Karen Attiah, The Washington Post

The national nightmare of Donald Trump’s presidency is over. Or so we think. For those who firmly believe in the promise of the American experiment, that multicultural democracy is worth fighting for, Joe Biden’s inauguration feels like a reprieve, a cooling balm on the second- and third-degree burns that Trump and his enablers have inflicted on our country. The essence of it arrived the historic moment that Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court justice, swore into office Kamala D. Harris, the first female, Black and South Asian vice president.

By Adam Ciralsky, for Vanity Fair

In the hours before Donald Trump’s last flight aboard Air Force One—and Joe Biden’s inauguration on the steps of the reclaimed and restored Capitol—many Americans and TV anchors wondered what the hell the 45th president and his inner circle had been doing, or undoing, in his waning days. Until Biden took the oath of office, the country had held its collective breath. Trump, in those final weeks in office, hadn’t simply dented the guardrails of governance. He’d demolished them. In order to watch things up close, I sought and secured a front-row seat to what was happening inside the Department of Defense, the only institution with the reach and the tools—2.1 million troops and weapons of every shape and size—to counter any moves to forestall or reverse the democratic process. I came away both relieved and deeply concerned by what I witnessed.

By Risa Brooks, for Foreign Affairs As soon as Joe Biden announced that he would nominate General Lloyd Austin to serve as his secretary of defense, critics began to question the choice. Austin retired from a long career in the U.S. Army just four years ago and, like General James Mattis before him, would thus require a congressional waiver of the rule requiring active-duty military personnel to wait seven years before becoming defense secretary. Under Mattis, the critics contend, civilian control of the military had already decayed considerably. Austin’s confirmation, in hearings that begin this week, would risk accelerating that decay by handing the job over to a recently retired general—one who may lack the political experience and comfort relying on a robust civilian staff—for the second time in four years.

The new Senate majority leader faces a "perfect storm" as his tenure begins. By Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, Politico Chuck Schumer has finally realized his dream of becoming majority leader. And given the circumstances, it’s a bit of a nightmare. Schumer is facing down a hard-nosed Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is refusing to cut a deal to govern the 50-50 Senate without a commitment to protecting the filibuster. He must marshal Donald Trump’s impeachment trial through the Senate while also trying to get President Joe Biden’s Cabinet confirmed. And he has to figure out how to respond to a crippling pandemic and struggling economy while Republicans have already rejected Biden’s relief proposal.

By Jordan Novet, CNBC Microsoft President and legal chief Brad Smith said Microsoft is evaluating options for the Microsoft Political Action Committee (MSPAC), which employees criticized because it helped finance the campaigns of Congress members who supported Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

By David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine In the American Southwest, birds fell dead from the sky by the tens of thousands, succumbing mid-flight to starvation, emaciated by climate change. Across the horn of Africa swarmed 200 billion locusts, 25 for every human on earth, darkening the sky in clouds as big as whole cities, descending on cropland and chewing through as much food as tens of millions of people eat in a day, eventually dying in such agglomerating mounds they stopped trains in their tracks — all told, 8,000 times as many locusts as could be expected in the absence of warming.

By Michael DesRochers, PR Daily

Feeling clicked-out? You are not alone. Suddenly, work is a whole lot more digital and a lot less social. Our schedules are now overloaded with virtual meetings, and our chat channels and inboxes are overflowing. This increased flow of digital communication is taxing our time and attention. Many of us have experienced “Zoom fatigue,” as near-constant video meetings and real-time chat channels have pushed our cognitive processing to the limit.

By Siddharth Vikram Philip, Bloomberg

Europe’s aviation safety regulator is poised to clear the Boeing Co. 737 Max for a return to service in the region next week, marking a major step in the jet’s global comeback from two deadly crashes. The final airworthiness directive will spell out required changes and include added pilot training requirements, European Union Aviation Safety Agency Executive Director Patrick Ky said Tuesday in an online roundtable with reporters.

Hello and welcome to 3Cs in Pod from Provision Advisors, the podcast for and about the global communications environment. It's been quite a week of news developments across the nation, NFL playoffs narrowing in, and a new administration steps up to bat. I look forward to covering what matters most. We'll also have a guest on the show with us today, he’s the author of 5 published novels, former Editor of, a naval flight officer, Navy veteran, Naval Academy alum and now serves as the director of Outreach and Marketing for the U.S. Naval Institute--Mr. Ward Carroll.

A prominent employment attorney discusses the limits of speech and expression in today’s heated, hyper-partisan environment.

By Brian Weinthal, PR Daily

More employers across the country have begun to re-examine the extent to which “off-duty” or “after-hours” behavior should play a role in the evaluation and discipline of employees. For example, a prominent in-house attorney at a Texas insurance company was fired when his employer learned through social media that he had participated in the rioting in Washington, D.C. The situation received heightened media attention when it was discovered that the fired attorney had also been serving as the insurance company’s director of human resources—a role often considered to be the moral and ethical compass for personnel matters at most businesses.

Many young professionals who left major cities plan to return eventually, fueling demand for furnished short-term housing

By Konrad Putzier, Wall Street Journal

A group of real-estate startups is aiming to cash in on the remote-work phenomenon. With many corporate offices closed because of the pandemic, many young professionals have left cities like New York and San Francisco for warmer, cheaper places. A number still plan to return after their offices reopen, leaving them reluctant to buy homes or sign long-term apartment leases. That situation is creating fresh demand for furnished housing on a short-term basis, a fast-growing niche that many property startups and their venture-capital backers are rushing to fill.

Only by acknowledging Covid's huge hit to our mental health — and by supporting each other — can we truly rebound from this pandemic.

By Therese Raphael for Bloomberg Opinion.

Hand it to human beings. We have repeatedly defied predictions that we will buckle under the extreme pressure of adverse events. Time and again, whether it was during the eight-month blitz in World War II, or after 9/11, people have proved remarkably resilient in the face of adversity. Will it be the same with this pandemic? On aggregate, probably yes. Most people have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, mental stress as a result of pandemic-related circumstances. (Irritation, anxiety, helplessness, tiredness, sadness, burnout, trouble sleeping or difficulty concentrating — any of these sound familiar?)

By Marjorie Censor, Inside Defense

The chief executive of Huntington Ingalls Industries says the company has returned to its pre-pandemic production rate -- but the company lost time and money it will likely not fully recover. In an interview with Inside Defense last week, Mike Petters said the company is proud of how it learned to adapt to the pandemic. But the low attendance rates it saw in the early months of the pandemic created a "big divot that was taken out"

By Tracy Jan, Washington Post Black Americans want President Biden to narrow systemic racial inequalities that have left them trailing Whites on every economic measure, gaps that are worsening amid the coronavirus recession. Black earnings for low-income households are predicted to fall by at least 35 percent compared with 2018, reversing gains since the last economic recovery, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, and the Groundwork Collaborative, an activist group focused on economic issues.

By Abram Brown, Forbes

Should Facebook allow the former president of the United States to rejoin its platform?

It’s a weighty question, a test of everything from the allowed extent of online free speech to Facebook’s ability to practice self-control. And arriving at the appropriate answer will be a massive early test of Facebook’s new independent Oversight Board, the 20-person group of free speech and internet content experts from across the globe empaneled last year as a regulatory body for the company, reviewing complaints about the company’s actions.

By Robert Simpson, Forbes In a recent 3M State of Science Survey, 32% of those surveyed believe their life wouldn't be that different if science didn't exist. Around the world, we see basic safety precautions like wearing a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 go ignored due to the lack of faith in scientific advice preached by public health officials. As if these examples are not reason enough for worry, a recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that, historically, trust in scientists and the benefits of their work is significantly reduced after global pandemics.

By Mark Maske, Washington Post The NFL completed a plan, in consultation with public-health authorities, to have approximately 22,000 fans attend next month’s Super Bowl in Tampa, including 14,500 ticket buyers and about 7,500 vaccinated health-care workers who will be invited as guests of the league.

By Doug Glanville, ESPN

I check all of the boxes. I played nine seasons in the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. I have experience as an executive subcommittee member in the Major League Baseball Players Association and am well-versed in baseball governance. I have an Ivy League degree at a time when that means a lot for executive opportunity in baseball. I've been a candidate before, and I believe I have the voice and drive to be an excellent major league manager. But I can't be your candidate right now. That truth has a lot to do with another box I check: Black father.

And Finally...

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