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Weekly Update 22-28 Mar 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

We’ve stopped following our formula for success.

Sometimes a comedian cuts through foreign policy issues better than any diplomat. Bill Maher did that the other week with an epic rant on U.S.-China relations, nailing the most troubling contrast between the two countries: China can still get big things done. America, not so much.

The U.S. and China’s Communist Party are strategic and ideological competitors. CEOs have to decide which side they want to help win.

By Matt Pottinger, for The Wall Street Journal In the weeks that surrounded President Biden’s inauguration, Chinese leaders waged an information campaign aimed at the U.S. Their flurry of speeches, letters and announcements was not, as the press first assumed, addressed mainly to the new administration. It was an effort to target the U.S. business community. The Communist Party’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke to a virtual audience of American business leaders and former government officials in early February. He painted a rosy picture of investment and trade opportunities in China before warning that Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan are “red lines” that Americans would do well to keep quiet about. Mr. Yang excoriated Trump administration policies toward China and was unsubtle in pressing his audience to lobby the Biden administration to reverse them.

The Limits of U.S.-Chinese Competition

By Thomas J. Christensen, Foreign Affairs For the past few decades, Chinese scholars, pundits, and diplomats have often falsely accused the United States of adopting a “cold war mentality” toward China. They usually level these accusations when Washington enhances the U.S. military’s position in Asia or bolsters the military capabilities of its allies and partners in East Asia.

Opinion by Megan McArdle, Washington Post

Shortly after news broke of the mass shooting underway in Boulder, Colo., a familiar sequence began playing out on social media: condemning the White male entitlement assumed to fuel the majority of such attacks. “Extremely tired of people’s lives depending on whether a white man with an AR-15 is having a bad day,” tweeted Julie DiCaro of Deadspin. “It’s always an angry white man. Always,” wrote Hemal Jhaveri of USA Today. When the alleged perpetrator was apprehended, crime fiction author Don Winslow offered a mordant epigram: Description: ‘Police have taken him into custody’. Translation: He was white. Many tweets were deleted after it emerged that the suspect was Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, a 21-year old immigrant from Syria. (And Jhaveri was fired by USA Today on Friday.) This was not the first time that left-leaning Twitter prematurely blamed another sort of White man — you know, white supremacist, entitled, conservative, marinated in gun culture — for a massacre committed, in fact, by a different type of person.

We can find real solutions to gun violence if we recognize the trauma it causes.

By Madison Armstrong and Jennifer Carlson, for the NYT

In the span of a week, two acts of public violence have stolen the lives of 18 people and provided a stark reminder of the mass gun violence that characterized the pre-Covid United States — and that looms with the end of the pandemic. In the first, a gunman, acting within a broader context of anti-Asian misogyny, went to three Atlanta-area massage businesses, taking the lives of eight people. The second, in Boulder, Colo., occurred at a grocery store — one of the few places people still congregate during the pandemic — as some went about their shopping and others eagerly waited to be vaccinated.

Opinion by Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post

After weeks of whining, the White House press corps got its first official Biden presidential news conference on Thursday. President Biden used the event to pledge that 200 million covid-19 vaccinations would be administered by the end of his first 100 days, double his original goal. (The administration will reach 100 million shots on Friday, Day 58.) He also announced that a survey showed nearly half of K-12 schools are open full-time for in-person learning. (He expressed confidence it would be more than half by the 100th day, consistent with his goal.) Certainly, that should be near the top of any news coverage. Asked how “hard” he would work for his policy goals, he responded that “all my focus” so far has been on covid-19 and the economic recovery, but he promised he would get to other issues such as guns, immigration, climate change and voting rights.

Out of 300 jobs, administration has named 16 picks thus far as Biden critics, supporters cite range of reasons for pace of nominations

By Nancy A. Youssef, Warren P. Strobel and Jessica Donati, Wall Street Journal

President Biden has yet to name hundreds of administration officials requiring Senate confirmation to military, diplomatic and intelligence posts, making it unlikely that his security agencies will be fully staffed until fall, officials say. Mr. Biden moved swiftly after winning the 2020 election to select the heads of the Pentagon, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and major intelligence agencies. But senior aides and top lieutenants who do much of the day-to-day work of running security matters haven’t been nominated, much less confirmed by the Senate. Of more than 300 positions in the State Department, Pentagon, DHS and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Biden administration has nominated 16, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.

By Jim Tankersley, NYT

President Biden’s economic advisers are pulling together a sweeping $3 trillion package to boost the economy, reduce carbon emissions and narrow economic inequality, beginning with a giant infrastructure plan that may be financed in part through tax increases on corporations and the rich. After months of internal debate, Mr. Biden’s advisers are expected to present the spending proposal to the president and congressional leaders this week, as well as begin outreach to industry and labor groups. On Monday, Mr. Biden’s national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, discussed his infrastructure plans — and their role in combating climate change — in a meeting with oil and gas industry executives.

By Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post

Raise your hand if you’re surprised by the latest crisis at our southern border. Only a naif would invite everyone to a party and then be shocked when they show up at the door. President Biden is hardly naive, but his legendary empathy may be his downfall. Despite what is so obviously a crisis, the Biden administration refuses to use the word. To make matters worse for himself, Biden is refusing media access to the Border Patrol compounds that are housing thousands of children and teens for too long and under dubious conditions. He has allowed some reporters into some shelters — just not the overcrowded ones. You can’t make this up.

The president has epic plans to shift our system and our values.

By David Brooks, NYT On March 12, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief act into law. Just 10 days later my Times colleague Jim Tankersley reported on a $3 trillion package of jobs, clean energy and infrastructure proposals. The Biden administration is throwing up epic spending plans at a bold, dazzling pace. The Biden administration is transformational in two ways. First, it is fiscally transformational. Throughout U.S. history policymakers have tried to restrain public debt in peacetime for fear of unleashing inflation or saddling the country with crippling costs. We are now blowing through those restraints, either because they are not the right worry today or never were.

One hundred large vessels are lost every year because the maritime industry won’t apply the lessons of aviation. By David A. Graham, The Atlantic When a big jet airplane crashes, it almost always makes headlines around the world, and for good reason: Fatal passenger accidents are extremely rare. Right now, though, the eyes of the world are on the Ever Given, the massive container ship still stubbornly lodged between the banks of the Suez Canal. The Ever Given’s predicament is both highly unusual and typical: Seldom does a ship get stuck in the Suez (though it does happen every few years), and seldom does a maritime disaster attract such attention. But even though the world is incredibly dependent on ships like Ever Given—a reality that pandemic-related disruptions have suddenly made visible—major maritime incidents are surprisingly common. According to the insurer Allianz, 41 large ships were lost in 2019, and 46 in 2018. Over the past decade, about 100 big vessels have been lost annually.

By Lori Ann LaRocco CNBC The stranded mega-container vessel, Ever Given in the Suez Canal, is holding up an estimated $400 million an hour in trade, based on the approximate value of goods that are moved through the Suez every day, according to shipping data and news company Lloyd’s List.

The coronavirus is changing. So is the disease it causes.

By James Hamblin, The Atlantic Trying to remember March 2020 feels like sticking your head into a parallel universe. This time last year, Americans were just going into lockdown—presumably for two weeks—to protect themselves from a mysterious but deadly virus. We disinfected mail but didn’t wear masks. Few of us knew that COVID-19 symptoms could last for months, that you might lose your sense of smell, or that your toes might break out in purple lesions. The possibility that millions would die was real but incomprehensible.

The pandemic redefined relationships and self-reliance.

By Valeriya Safronova, NYT In the year since the pandemic began, people learned to be together while apart and navigated the pain of feeling apart while together. Screens, small and large, became crucial links to the rest of the world.

Activities and routines that commanded crowds — visiting museums, attending concerts, working out, learning, traveling, partying — ceased or found a new life online. Holidays usually celebrated by family gatherings became fraught with consequences.

Liberals predicted that Florida would get destroyed by its laissez-faire approach to COVID-19. Conservatives said the state was the future of the economy. What if they were both wrong? By Derek Thompson, The Atlantic I started reporting this essay with a clear thesis: Florida is having a moment. To the extent that winning a pandemic is possible, Florida seemed to be winning the pandemic. Despite criticism from liberals for its laissez-faire approach to COVID-19, Florida has been “booming,” according to CNN, and the state’s success is “a vindication for their policies.” Governor Ron DeSantis bragged that Florida drew a straight flush of pandemic outcomes: “open schools, comparatively low unemployment, and per capita COVID mortality below the national average.” If you tracked the digital murmurings of Silicon Valley elites, no city in the United States seemed hotter than Miami for the billionaire set. A casual glance at any photographic representation of South Florida made it seem like a pre-pandemic haven of packed bars, sunny beaches, and beautiful people leading the sort of carefree life that a northeastern urbanite shut-in like myself could experience only in the REM stage of sleep.

Autocrats Care More About Domestic Control Than Influence Abroad

By Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, Foreign Affairs On October 7 of last year, the Twitter account @hakkidin tweeted what appeared to be a heartfelt message of congratulations: “I’d like to wish our president, our supreme commander-in-chief Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin a Happy Birthday. I wish him strength, success in his difficult work and thanks for a powerful, flourishing fatherland. THREE CHEERS IN HONOR OF OUR PRESIDENT’S BIRTHDAY!” But @hakkidin, who tweets in Russian and whose profile picture is of the Russian Civil War hero Vasily Chapayev, was not a patriotic citizen expressing a spontaneous outpouring of love for Putin. He was a Russian troll.

On this episode of the DefAero Report Daily Podcast, sponsored by Bell, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby discusses Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s recent trip to the Indo-Pacific region, department transition and staffing decisions and the importance of transparent and clear communication from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military services.

By Margery Kraus & Diane Schwartz, PR Daily

Amidst the lockdowns that turned our lives upside down last year, many women have become de facto teachers, caregivers and therapists for their families. A disproportionate number of women in the United States have left their jobs or changed their work schedules to accommodate their families’ needs, leading to many women sacrificing their wellbeing, mental health and personal and professional aspirations. With similar circumstances being commonplace around the world, if unchecked, the trend may erase much of progress in women’s issues made in the last century, leading to unsustainable systems of society and economic models.

By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily

When it comes to creating social media content that grabs viewers and delivers results, it’s essential to start with the right question. T.J. Barber, director of social media marketing and strategy at BET Networks, shared how she thinks about starting a new social media project with attendees at Ragan’s Social Media & Digital Virtual Conference on March 16. She advises to always start by asking: “Are you creating content for the audience you have, the audience you want, or internal stakeholders?”

king a deep dive into the many factors that are influencing your reporting, or what she calls “analytics+.”

By Provision Advisors

If you have messages and products you want to highlight in the digital space, it becomes extremely important to stand out from the noise noted in that graphic. Content can easily get lost in the sea of marketing messages unless it is worthy of attention and has that “special sauce.” So, how do you get your products to be worthy of attention and, more importantly, worthy of trust? What is that je ne sais quoi? The answer is simple: authenticity.

The sugary cereal’s digital team initially tried to deny a writer’s aquatic discovery on Twitter. The prawny saga has become must-see social media entertainment.

By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily

There’s something fishy going on with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. At least, that’s the takeaway of one consumer who purchased a box of the beloved cereal from his local California Costco, only to discover a couple of sugar-encrusted shrimp tails in his box. And he had already eaten a bowl before discovering the secret ingredients. Yuck.

By Brett Pulley and Margarte Newkirk, Bloomberg

Corporations that had declined to publicly oppose a sweeping Georgia election law claimed some responsibility for pushing to remove some of the most egregious elements from the measure, which critics have said will make it more difficult for people to vote.

By Susan Mcpherson, Newsweek

Fran Hauser is a startup investor and advisor, funding and advising consumer-focused companies. Formerly digital president for Time Inc.'s Style and Entertainment Group, she is also a philanthropist and advocate for women in business. For virtual meetings, in order to make them a bit more personal and connected, Hauser recommends starting the meeting by following up on something someone said in the last call. For example, "How did that client pitch go, Susan?" Or if it's not a recurring meeting, see if you can find something else to ask about right off the bat. Was there a local event that transpired where that person lives that you could ask about?

By City Councillor Frank Baker

Marty Walsh has been building relationships for 25 years in and around elected office. He understands the value of leadership and communication more than any elected official I have ever met. And he genuinely cares about you, the individual. You could feel that when he shook your hand (pre-pandemic), looked you directly in the eye, and opened his ears to the needs of the community. He will apply that “building bridges” philosophy as part of one of the most inclusive and diverse presidential cabinets in US history. He will be a star as he assists President Biden and Vice President Harris as they position this country onto the right trajectory— a direction leading to a return of values-based leadership and ethics-based government. He will be forward-leaning and transparent and he will serve loyally as one of the hardest-working people in Washington. And back in Dorchester, everyone will still have his cell phone number.

By Kelly Cohen, ESPN

United States star Megan Rapinoe said Wednesday that the world is missing out on the "real potential of women's sports" due to inequalities that still exist, including pay and working conditions. Rapinoe, who won gold for the U.S. in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, has been a powerful advocate for equal pay. Her remarks came via video testimony before the House Oversight Committee in Washington for Equal Pay Day.

And Finally...

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