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Weekly Update 22-28 Feb 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

By Provision Advisors

Seemingly in an instant we’ve arrived at the final week of February, already 2 months into the new year. We’re moving closer and closer through the first 100 days of a Biden presidency and Covid realities remain a dominant force in our news cycle. We talk lessons from Texas and look forward to the next chapter in the war for the perfect fast food chicken sandwich. Also, in continuing with our push to be more involved listeners and doers in the evolving communication space of our day, we’ll speak with special guest, Rahman Branch, former executive director to the DC Mayor’s office on African American affairs.

We might be able to achieve normalcy by summer. Our leaders should embrace the possibility.

Christmas of 2021: According to both President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, together the two most prominent voices on public health in America right now, that’s when we can hope for a return to normalcy, the beginning of life after the emergency. Even that not-exactly-optimistic prediction comes with hedges and caveats. Next Christmas won’t necessarily be the end of pandemic restrictions, according to Biden — just a time when “significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask.” Likewise, Fauci has described his hope as “a degree of normality” by the end of 2021, with the possibility of widespread masking persisting into the following year.

By spending lots of money and not worrying about liability, America is beating Europe in the vaccine race.

By Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

The american government’s COVID-19 response has been a disaster, right? The United States strategy is a four-alarm dumpster fire, sent from hell to remind Americans to never again elect a president who describes the scientific method as “Now they have it, they have studied it, they know very much.” When people needed coronavirus guidance, U.S. leaders had none. Government officials told people not to wear masks, oh wait, to definitely wear masks—oh wait, there actually aren’t any masks. Kindergartners went to internet school for a year because America simply refused to get a clue.

By Jeneen Interlandi and Yaryna Serkez, NYT

Two months into the largest vaccination campaign in American history, results are very mixed. Some 45 million Americans have received at least their first dose of a Covid vaccine, but those shots have not been equitably distributed. Black people in Mississippi accounted for 40 percent of Covid deaths but only 22 percent of vaccinations, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And in New York City, wealthier, whiter neighborhoods have far higher vaccination rates than poorer communities of color that have been much harder hit by the pandemic.

Some African-Americans are reluctant to get the covid jab. Near Washington, DC, one man is trying to change people’s minds

By Charlie McCann, The Economist

Covid-19 has left its mark on the Shop Spa barbers. Anti-bacterial wipes and paper towels have joined the bottles of unguents cluttering work stations. The chairs and sofa where customers normally wait have been stacked up and taped off, in accordance with coronavirus regulations. Barbers wear face masks, except when they’re ribbing each other – then they pull them down over their chins. The pandemic is serious business, sure. But sometimes you have to be able to joke around.

By The Washington Post Editorial Board

When President Biden asked what critics would have him cut from his covid relief bill, he got plenty of answers about reducing the $510 billion in aid to state and local governments — including from us. Now, some moderate Senate Democrats are suggesting a middle way: Earmark $50 billion of those funds for broadband investment. The idea, spearheaded by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), is a political crowd-pleaser more likely to attract cross-aisle support than most big spending. The funds, likely in the form of grants, would address the immediate emergency of millions of Americans going Internet-less in a time when being online, whether for work, school or telehealth, is more important than ever. The money would also serve the longer-term effort of connecting the entire nation for the post-pandemic world — estimated to cost as much as $80 billion for the wiring, and another pretty penny for providing high speeds to the low-income.

By Jane Qiu, for Forbes Communicating with your team can be a minefield. One misstep, and you’ve set off an explosion that could have serious consequences for your relationships with your team and the business as a whole. Luckily, if you can identify the hazards before you step out, you’ll not only navigate tricky situations safely, but your whole team will also be more connected and productive. So what are the biggest bombs-in-waiting to avoid, and how can you get your comms back on track?

Getting into the right job is the key.

By David Brooks, NYT I know money can’t buy you love, but wouldn’t it be nice to have enough money to buy whatever else you want? I’m here to help you! The most likely way to become rich is to try to get into a line of work that’s hard to get into, particularly if the people in that profession are the ones setting the rules for entry.

More digitized and connected than ever, the nation’s infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattack.

By Dave Weinstein, WSJ I first saw the inside of a water-treatment plant in 2015. I was conducting a site visit at a municipal facility in New Jersey, where I was the state’s director of cybersecurity. It wasn’t an inspection; the plant manager had asked me to visit. Changes at the facility over the years had made him uneasy. Analog machinery had given way to digital systems, and critical water-treatment processes were now automated. The plant required little human intervention in day-to-day operations. Thanks to remote-access technologies, more maintenance and monitoring activities were being performed off-site by a third party. All this was great for efficiency, especially for his resource-limited operation, but what about the risk? Optimizing for cost and speed meant connecting more digital and networked technologies to his plant floor. Security was no longer simply a matter of gates, guards and guns. It had become a matter of bits and bytes.

The crown prince killed my friend Jamal Khashoggi, and we do next to nothing.

By Nicholas Kristof, NYT The United States government publicly identified Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia as the murderer of an American resident, and then President Biden choked. Instead of imposing sanctions on M.B.S., Biden appears ready to let the murderer walk. The weak message to other thuggish dictators considering such a murder is: Please don’t do it, but we’ll still work with you if we have to. The message to Saudi Arabia is: Go ahead and elevate M.B.S. to be the country’s next king if you must.

Donald Trump is not the only one who abandoned a prudent reluctance to be caught fibbing.

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., WSJ Any claim you can imagine can be put into words. That’s why we in journalism don’t put faith in claims. The first and only evidence for a claim sometimes is who’s making it. Citing “two law enforcement officials,” the New York Times reported in January that Capitol Hill policeman Brian Sicknick was killed by a fire extinguisher blow to the head. A statement by his family, though, carefully avoided the issue of cause. A ProPublica report offered details that seemed inconsistent with the Times account. A local CBS station reported that Mr. Sicknick died of a stroke, citing a named police union official. For all these reasons, I carried an asterisk in my head about the story from day one. Now the New York Times has issued an “update” saying the manner of his death remains unresolved.

By Joseph Choi, The Hill

Congressional job approval ratings are the highest they have been in over a decade, according to a new poll released by Gallup. Just more than one-third of Americans surveyed — 35 percent — approve of job Congress is doing, a 10-point increase from January. Gallup noted this is the highest approval rating for Congress since early 2009 when it stood at 39 percent. The survey released Tuesday was conducted from Feb. 3 to Feb. 18 as the second Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump took place and just a few weeks after the House voted to impeach him a second time. Trump was acquitted in the upper chamber.

By Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

How could this have happened? For four days, millions of people in Texas—the so-called energy capital of the world—shivered in the dark, unable to turn the lights on or run their heaters during some of the coldest days in decades. At least 30 Texans have died so far, including a 75-year-old man whose oxygen machine lost power and an 11-year-old boy who may have perished of hypothermia. Desperate families have tried to stay warm by running generators and grills indoors, leading to more than 450 carbon-monoxide poisonings, many of them in children.

Welcome to the DEFAERO Andy Marshall Strategy Series, our discussion with leading thinkers on security, business and technology. Our guest is Steve Blank, an Air Force Veteran of the Vietnam War and an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University where he teaches courses on Lean Startups, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

By Gina Harkins,

When the Navy holds its daylong stand-downs to address the extremist ideologies that leaders say have infiltrated the military ranks, sailors across the fleet will be required to reaffirm the oath they took to the U.S. Constitution. All Navy personnel -- uniformed and civilian -- will have to repeat the oath of enlistment or office and discuss what actions betray that promise during the virtual or in-person learning sessions that must be held by April 6. The stand-downs will focus on the "damaging effects of extremism" and how to eliminate it, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell wrote in a service-wide message.

Tory Newmyer, The Washington Post

A day after JPMorgan Chase announced it would freeze its political contributions in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the nation’s largest bank made an unpublicized move indicating it may not be eager to overhaul how it does business in Washington. The company wrote the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the agency to block activist investors from forcing the bank to provide a fuller accounting of its political spending. Specifically, the shareholders, organized by social impact investment firm Rhia Ventures, want JPMorgan to report on how its campaign giving squares with its stated commitment to a lofty set of values.

By Paul McCleary, Breaking Defense

While the Navy’s modernization efforts lead the list of concerns Pentagon leadership is looking to tackle, the service’s top admiral is mapping a plan to get hypersonic missiles and lasers on ships as quickly as he can. Adm. Mike Gilday is focused on getting hypersonic missiles on his Zumwalt destroyers first, using the long-troubled three ship class as a testbed for installing the weapon on other ships across the fleet, he said recently.

By Dan Ciampa, for The Harvard Business Review Nearly a year after the Covid-19 pandemic closed most offices, we’re beginning to see reasons for optimism. The population of vaccinated people is growing, and the number of new Covid cases is declining from winter peaks. By mid-summer, a good portion of the working-age population should be vaccinated. Because of such hopeful signs, CEOs at companies that remain all-remote are starting to think seriously about how and how much to bring their employees back to the office, and how to best answer questions about policies and timelines their boards will soon ask. They realize that given all that has happened over the last year, more employees than ever before will work remotely, and for tasks that can be done more efficiently that way, investments in technology are necessary.

By Judy Kurtz, The Hill

Former President Obama and Bruce Springsteen are using their voices in a new way — they're now a podcasting duo. The ex-commander in chief and the “Glory Days” singer launched a podcast on Monday called “Renegades: Born in the U.S.A.” In a statement about the show’s debut, Spotify said, "It is a personal, in-depth discussion between two friends exploring their pasts, their beliefs, and the country that they love — as it was, as it is, and as it ought to be going forward."

By Jennifer Lu, Los Angeles Times

One week into shelter-in-place last year, Jeremy Bailenson was talking to a BBC reporter and had an epiphany. “Why are we Zooming? There’s no need for us to be on Zoom,” he thought. A phone call would have sufficed. This kernel of realization became an op-ed article that Bailenson penned in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us.”

By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily

Inclusive language, for speechwriters, is more of an ethos than a box that must be checked. It’s the product of taking your audience seriously, attempting to reflect their different backgrounds and stories with honesty and respect. It’s also what happens when you successfully build community, or as Michael Franklin puts it, “a sense of belonging.” Franklin is co-founder of Speechwriters of Color, an organization seeking to improve representation and reach for diverse communicators, and will lead a session on inclusive language in speechwriting at Ragan’s Speechwriting and Public Affairs Virtual Conference March 4.

By Megan Reitz, John Higgins, and Emma Day-Duro Employee activism is on the rise and we expect it to become a defining feature of the workplace in the coming years. Employees are increasingly aware of social inequality and climate change and how their companies contribute to these ills, with millennials in particular seeming to be unwilling to turn a blind eye to their employers’ complicity. Climate strikes, calls for unionization, and support for Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement are becoming part of the reality in organizations, reinforced by the growing pressure from investors targeting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aims.

By Phelan Ebehack, Associated Press

As Tiger Woods recovers from serious leg injuries suffered in a rollover accident Tuesday morning outside Los Angeles, the golf world is again trying to answer the question that has loomed over the sport for the better part of a decade. Is Tiger done? Woods underwent emergency surgery after he fractured bones in multiple places in the accident. He had a rod, screws and pins inserted to stabilize his leg, foot and ankle. He experienced trauma to his leg’s muscle and soft tissue.

By Juliet Macur, NYT

For several decades, until law enforcement finally came calling and their careers came to an end, the coach and the doctor were close friends who made a perfect team of abusers. John Geddert, a coach of the 2012 Olympic women’s gymnastics team, and Lawrence G. Nassar, the longtime national team doctor, were so close that Geddert had been in Nassar’s wedding party.

By Tommy Beer, Forbes

The WNBA and NBA Boards of Governors announced Friday that they have unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Dream to an investor group made up of two executives at the real estate private-equity firm Northland, President Suzanne Abair and Chairman and founder Larry Gottesdiener, and former Dream star Renee Montgomery, after WNBA players had called for former Sen. Kelly Loeffler to sell her share in the team over her hostility to the Black Lives Matter movement.

And Finally...

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