Weekly Update 19-25 Apr 21
Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.
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By Philip Bump, The Washington Post
President Biden has been unabashed about advancing his agenda, a boldness that is probably born both of his convincing win in the 2020 presidential election — at least in terms of the popular vote — and of his understanding that Republicans are unlikely to go out of their way to aid his presidency. Note the difference here between “boldness in advancing an agenda” and “advancing a bold agenda.” While Biden’s out-of-the-gates efforts include components embraced by the more progressive members of his party, he has centered his initial policy pushes on proposals with broad public (not necessarily only Democratic) support.
By Adam Grant, The New York Times
At first, I didn’t recognize the symptoms that we all had in common. Friends mentioned that they were having trouble concentrating. Colleagues reported that even with vaccines on the horizon, they weren’t excited about 2021. A family member was staying up late to watch “National Treasure” again even though she knows the movie by heart. And instead of bouncing out of bed at 6 a.m., I was lying there until 7, playing Words with Friends. It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.
Governments need to give Americans an off-ramp to the post-pandemic world. Ending outdoor mask requirements would be a good place to start.
By Derek Thompson, The Atlantic
Last week, I covered my nose and mouth with close-fitting fabric like a good citizen and walked to a restaurant in Washington, D.C., where I de-masked at a patio table to greet a friend. I sat with my chair facing the entrance and watched dozens of people perform the same ritual, removing a mask they’d worn outside and alone. It seemed like the most normal thing in the world. Until, suddenly, it seemed very weird. The coronavirus is most transmissible in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, where the aerosolized virus can linger in the air before latching onto our nasal or bronchial cells. In outdoor areas, the viral spray is more likely to disperse.
Opinion: The covid-19 vaccines are an extraordinary success story. The media should tell it that way.
Opinion by Leana S. Wen, The Washington Post
Recent news coverage is fueling a pernicious narrative: What’s the point of getting a covid-19 vaccine if the vaccinated might still get infected, if protection doesn’t last that long and if the vaccine itself could lead to dangerous outcomes such as blood clots? Clinicians need to address each concern head-on, and we need the media’s help to do it. The science is squarely on our side. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on breakthrough coronavirus infections — meaning instances of fully vaccinated people testing positive. The data highlighted how effective vaccination is, but you might not have drawn that conclusion from news reports.
Opinion by Robert M. Wachter, The Washington Post
If covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is straightforward. We know that people who are fully vaccinated are greatly protected against infection and serious illness and are far less likely to transmit covid-19 to others. The vaccines truly are a miracle. But here’s the bad news: Life has become even riskier for unvaccinated people, particularly those who have never had covid-19. (People with prior infections fall into a middle category, since they are at least partly protected but still require vaccination to increase the level and durability of immunity.) The reasons that the unvaccinated are at higher risk are biological, behavioral and political.
By Ryan Raphael for NPR
To say Leah Juelke is an award-winning teacher is a bit of an understatement. She was a top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize in 2020; she was North Dakota's Teacher of the Year in 2018; and she was awarded an NEA Foundation award for teaching excellence in 2019. But Juelke, who teaches high school English learners in Fargo, N.D., says nothing prepared her for teaching during the coronavirus pandemic. "The level of stress is exponentially higher. It's like nothing I've experienced before."
How to Transform the Pentagon for a Competitive Era
By Michèle A. Flournoy, Foreign Affairs For almost a decade, U.S. defense officials have deemed the return of great-power competition to be the most consequential challenge to U.S. national security. In 2012, during the Obama administration, the Defense Department announced that “U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations,” such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, marking a sharp departure from the United States’ post-9/11 defense strategy. In 2016, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter highlighted a “return to great-power of competition.” And in 2018, the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy crystallized this shift: “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security,” it declared, with a particular focus on China as the pacing threat.
A lack of facilities to support naval vessels risks handing China a military advantage.
By Jerry Hendrix, The Wall Street Journal A portion of President Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan would fund roads, bridges and railways, but one essential piece of infrastructure is overlooked entirely: the U.S. shipbuilding base. For years there has been a bipartisan consensus that the U.S. Navy should grow to 355 ships from 296. But a larger, more capable Navy needs shipyards to build and maintain the fleet. During World War II, the U.S. had 10 large Navy yards with drydocks and repair facilities, as well as more than 40 commercial drydocks. Today there are only four industrial Navy yards, in Hawaii, Maine, Virginia and Washington state. By my count, fewer than 20 commercial sites are certified for naval use.
China is achieving a new level of global competitiveness, thanks to its hyper-adaptive population.
By Zak Dychtwald, Harvard Business Review The future of the Chinese economy lies in innovation, and everyone in China knows it. But that hasn’t always been true. Innovation didn’t drive the manufacturing miracle that has unfolded in China over the past half century, during which some 700 million people have been raised—or lifted themselves—out of desperate poverty. Instead the driver has in large part been what might be called brute-force imitation. Relying on a seemingly limitless supply of cheap labor, provided by the hundreds of millions of ambitious workers born during the postwar baby boom, China devoted itself prodigiously to the production of other countries’ innovations. The effort enabled a country that missed the Industrial Revolution to absorb the world’s most modern manufacturing advances in just a decade or two. Fittingly, China earned a reputation as a global copycat.
Governments and conservation groups accuse the ships of fishing illegally and advancing military goals By Chuin-Wei Yap, The Wall Street Journal In Beijing’s push to become a maritime superpower, China’s fishing fleet has grown to become the world’s largest by far—and it has turned more aggressive, provoking tensions around the globe. The fleet brings in millions of tons of seafood a year to feed the country’s booming middle class. Foreign governments, fishermen and conservation groups have accused the fleet of illegal fishing, including by using banned equipment and venturing into other countries’ territory. That fishing has upended local economies and threatens ecosystems including around the Galápagos Islands, affected governments and fishermen say.
Cybersecurity company Mandiant said Pulse Secure, a program that businesses often use to let workers remotely connect to their offices, had been compromised.
By Kevin Collier, NBC News
China is behind a newly discovered series of hacks against key targets in the U.S. government, private companies and the country’s critical infrastructure, cybersecurity firm Mandiant said Wednesday. The hack works by breaking into Pulse Secure, a program that businesses often use to let workers remotely connect to their offices. The company announced Tuesday how users can check to see if they were affected but said the software update to prevent the risk to users won’t go out until May.
Foreign Affairs Asks the Experts We at Foreign Affairs have recently published a number of pieces on Big Tech and U.S. national security. To complement these articles, we decided to ask a broad pool of experts for their take. As with previous surveys, we approached dozens of authorities with specialized expertise relevant to the question at hand, together with leading generalists in the field. Participants were asked to state whether they agreed or disagreed with a proposition and to rate their confidence level in their opinion.
The hedge fund set to buy Tribune Publishing mismanaged employees’ pensions, federal investigators found
Alden Global Capital admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pull employees’ pension money out of its own funds and pay them $20.7 million, the Labor Department said in a 2019 decision
By Jonathan O'Connell, The Washington Post
Hedge fund Alden Global Capital probably violated federal pension protections by putting $294 million of its newspaper employees’ pension savings into its own funds, according to a Labor Department investigation. Alden is the leading bidder for Tribune Publishing’s titles, including the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. It has already purchased at least 200 newspapers, often aggressively cutting staff and selling off the papers’ assets to boost profits.
By Sophie Maerowitz, PR News
On April 17, two men were killed in an autonomous Tesla crash in Harris County, Texas. The company has so far stayed mum—perhaps because no PR pros were around to pick up the phone. There’s little question as to why Tesla has stayed so silent: The company disbanded its PR team in October 2020. Deb Hileman, president and CEO of the Institute for Crisis Management sees the move as a major misstep. “For a company of the size and reach of Tesla to have dissolved its public relations team and simply refuse to interact with the media is shortsighted. The company's refusal even to acknowledge the tragedy and offer its condolences to the victims' families is indefensible,” she said.
By Stephen Losey, Military.com
When the news broke that the United States planned to pull its remaining troops from Afghanistan, Marine veteran Peter Lucier's thoughts drifted to his old platoon mate, Lance Cpl. Ramon Kaipat.
Kaipat was "an incredibly funny character," Lucier remembered; a big guy who immigrated from Saipan and was beloved by their platoon during their deployment to Helmand province in 2011 and 2012. But on April 11, 2012 -- almost exactly nine years before President Joe Biden would announce the final troop withdrawal -- part of Lucier's platoon was on patrol. They passed a dirt mound that, the previous year, was the site of a patrol base they had used, and was since bulldozed.
For centuries, Black American troops have not fully enjoyed the freedom they are sworn to defend.
By Theodore R. Johnson, The New York Times
I can’t remember the exact moment it occurred, but at some point early in my 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, I picked up a survival tactic. It wasn’t a novel technique for handling being stranded at sea or navigating out of a dense jungle in enemy territory; it was how to survive an encounter with American law enforcement. The maneuver was quite simple: Each time I was pulled over by police officers and they asked for my license and registration, the first thing I gave them was my military ID.
As the country reacts to the court’s decision, communicators are weighing how to take a stand.
By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily
When George Floyd was killed in May 2020, outrage over police brutality and systemic racism spilled into the streets around the world. Corporate America also joined the conversation, with many organizations reevaluating DE&I commitments, sharing their plans to invest in marginalized communities and determining how best to become an “ally.” Now, as the legal case against Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, comes to a close, organizations are once again considering how to respond.
Turning to management techniques will help perfectionists use their high-achieving tendencies in a healthy manner.
By Julian Reeve, Fast Company Perfectionists are known for making impressive strides. These high-achievers are often some of our most well known popular culture figures. Martha Stewart, Barbra Streisand, and Serena Williams are all leaders in their fields, with achievements and towering net worths among them.
He and his advisers huddled to discuss how other Democratic leaders responded to scandals; strong polls help
By Jimmy Vielkind and Deanna Paul, The Wall Street Journal
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was certain about one thing in early March: He wasn’t going to follow in the footsteps of former U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who resigned from office after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. Mr. Cuomo was facing an investigation into former aides’ allegations that he acted inappropriately in the workplace, and lawmakers in the Democratic governor’s party were calling for his resignation. He had spent most of 2020 winning praise for his response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but now his administration was under a federal investigation for the handling of virus-related deaths at nursing homes.
By Lisa Richwine, Reuters
Maryo Mogannam snuck into the Empire theater in San Francisco with his older cousins to watch “Animal House” when he was 14. He watched most of the James Bond movies at the historic art house and took his wife there on some of their first dates.
The cinema, which had been showing movies since the silent film era, served notice in February that it was permanently closing because of the impact of COVID-19. The marquee is now blank, and cardboard and paper cover the box office window.
By Louise Radnofsky, WSJ
Superstar gymnast Simone Biles is leaving Nike Inc . , departing the sneaker juggernaut’s roster for a new apparel partnership with Athleta that she says more closely reflects her values.
The relationship, which was announced Friday, is a major coup for the smaller, women’s activewear brand, which was founded in 1998 and is owned by Gap Inc . It comes after Athleta signed a partnership in 2019 with sprinting champion Allyson Felix, a former Nike athlete who had criticized the company for failing to support pregnant athletes. It also comes days after Nike’s partnership expired with the estate of basketball player Kobe Bryant.