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Weekly Update 23-29 Nov 20


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

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Top Clips


Transitions are never easy. Especially this one.


Opinion by Richard Norton Smith, Washington Post It always rained on his moving days, a sulky Calvin Coolidge observed on the morning of March 4, 1929. Dreary weather was the least of his complaints as he dressed for the ritualistic transfer of power to Herbert Hoover, a onetime Bull Moose Republican whose activism as secretary of commerce had moved Coolidge to derisively label him the “Wonder Boy.” Transitions are never easy, even when they are voluntary. Nobody likes to be an ex.



Pope Francis: A Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Hearts

By Pope Francis

In this past year of change, my mind and heart have overflowed with people. People I think of and pray for, and sometimes cry with, people with names and faces, people who died without saying goodbye to those they loved, families in difficulty, even going hungry, because there’s no work.


Why Did So Many Americans Vote for Trump?

By Will Wilkinson, NYT

President Trump’s disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic probably cost him re-election. Yet it seems mind-boggling that he still won more votes than any incumbent president in American history despite his dereliction of responsibility at a time of a once-in-a-century health crisis and economic devastation. Why are President-elect Joe Biden’s margins so thin in the states that clinched his victory? And why did the president’s down-ticket enablers flourish in the turbulent, plague-torn conditions they helped bring about?


Biden Aides’ Ties to Consulting and Investment Firms Pose Ethics Test

By Eric Lipton and Kenneth P. Vogel, NYT

One firm helps companies navigate global risks and the political and procedural ins and outs of Washington. The other is an investment fund with a particular interest in military contractors. But the consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, and the investment fund, Pine Island Capital Partners, call themselves strategic partners and have featured an overlapping roster of politically connected officials — including some of the most prominent names on President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s team and others under consideration for high-ranking posts.


Joe Biden needs to break the market’s codependency with White House

Trump’s approach widened the disconnect between traders and the real economy


By Mohamed El-Erian, Financial Times

As US president-elect Joe Biden contemplates his first 100 days in office, he should consider what can be done over time to reduce the extreme codependency that developed between his predecessor and the US stock market. Mr Biden is unlikely to put this very high up on the list of challenges he faces. However, the longer he delays in deciding and communicating his approach, the greater the likelihood that he will confront the same dilemma the current leaders of the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank faced early in their tenures.



Biden is rebranding but not reinventing Trump’s China policy

Opinion by Josh Rogin, Washington Post

The Biden administration-in-waiting is sending clear signals about its China approach, which will look very different from President Trump’s — at least on the surface. But at the same time, President-elect Joe Biden’s personnel picks so far portend a strategy that maintains the Trump administration’s core thrust of focusing on competition — not engagement — with Beijing. That should comfort nervous allies even if it doesn’t satisfy hawkish Republicans.



In Key States, Republicans Were Critical in Resisting Trump’s Election Narrative

They refuted conspiracy theories, certified results, dismissed lawsuits and repudiated a president of their own party.


By Peter Baker and Kathleen Gray, New York Times

The telephone call would have been laugh-out-loud ridiculous if it had not been so serious. When Tina Barton picked up, she found someone from President Trump’s campaign asking her to sign a letter raising doubts about the results of the election. The election that Ms. Barton as the Republican clerk of the small Michigan city of Rochester Hills had helped oversee. The election that she knew to be fair and accurate because she had helped make it so. The election that she had publicly defended amid threats that made her upgrade her home security system.



Poised To Be America's 1st Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff Shakes Up Gender Stereotypes


By Melissa Block, NPR

With Kamala Harris poised to become the country's first female vice president, she brings with her another historic first: America's first second gentleman, her husband, Doug Emhoff.Emhoff, 56, is already shaking up gender stereotypes, a point highlighted by Joe Biden when he appeared for the first time with Harris as his running mate in August. Addressing Emhoff with a grin, Biden said, "Doug, you're gonna have to learn what it means to be a barrier breaker yourself in this job you're about to take on."



The Transition Has Started. Release the Op-Eds!


By Steven Cook, for Foreign Policy

The ideas industry has been busy in the last few weeks. Since the U.S. presidential election was called for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, Washington has been awash in advice for him and his incoming administration. A rough count reveals at least 100 commentaries, op-eds, blog posts, special reports, and policy memos outlining what Team Biden should be doing on various issues of import, though my count was restricted to foreign-policy issues with a heavy bias toward the Middle East. Add in China, Russia, cybersecurity, climate change, COVID-19, repairing relations with NATO, and other topics, and one can only marvel at the pace—if not always quality—of production.



The Logic of Pandemic Restrictions Is Falling Apart...This is why you can eat in a restaurant but can’t have Thanksgiving.

By Amanda Mull, The Atlantic Two weeks ago, I staged a reluctant intervention via Instagram direct message. The subject was a longtime friend, Josh, who had been sharing photos of himself and his fiancé occasionally dining indoors at restaurants since New York City, where we both live, had reopened them in late September. At first, I hadn’t said anything. Preliminary research suggests that when people congregate indoors, an infected person is almost 20 times more likely to transmit the virus than if they were outside. But restaurants are open legally in New York, and I am not the COVID police. Josh and I had chatted several times in the early months of the pandemic about safety, and I felt sure that he was making an informed decision, even if it wasn’t the one I’d make.



How Your Brain Tricks You Into Taking Risks During the Pandemic

Experts who study the way we think and make decisions say that it can be more than politics driving our decision-making this year. The unprecedented nature of the pandemic undermines how we process information and assess risk. Need proof? Look around.


By Marshall Allen and Meg Marco, for ProPublica It was mid-February and Maria Konnikova — a psychologist, writer and champion poker player — was on a multicity trip. From her hotel room in New Orleans, she called her sister, a doctor, to discuss the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Konnikova saw there were early cases in Los Angeles, where she was headed for a poker tournament. The odds of Konnikova getting infected or spreading the virus by participating in a large indoor event were unknown. But as a poker player she had a lot of experience thinking through the probable risks associated with different decisions. So she played it conservatively. She cut short her trip and went home to quarantine in New York.



America Failed at COVID-19, but the Economy’s Okay. Why?

The U.S. entered the coronavirus recession with a few structural advantages. Its success may not last for long. By Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic

Here is a remarkable, underappreciated fact: The U.S. economy has performed far better than that of many of the country’s peers during this horrible year. The International Monetary Fund expects the U.S. economy to contract by 4.4 percent in 2020, versus 5.3 percent in Japan, 6 percent in Germany, 7.1 percent in Canada, and nearly 10 percent in both the United Kingdom and France.



Denial Isn’t Working Out for College Football

The coronavirus keeps infecting players and disrupting game schedules, but schools are acting as if the pandemic isn’t happening. By Jemele Hill. Contributing writer for The Atlantic

College football is now the epitome of the way dysfunction becomes normalized in America. Fans of the sport woke up to the news Saturday morning that the ClemsonFlorida State game was postponed because a Clemson offensive lineman had tested positive for the coronavirus the day before. The matchup was one of 18 games that had to be canceled or postponed last week because of COVID-19.


McKinsey Proposed Paying Pharmacy Companies Rebates for OxyContin Overdoses

By Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe, NYT

When Purdue Pharma agreed last month to plead guilty to criminal charges involving OxyContin, the Justice Department noted the role an unidentified consulting company had played in driving sales of the addictive painkiller even as public outrage grew over widespread overdoses.



Pentagon Purges Leading Advisors From Defense Policy Board


By Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy

It’s unclear why the Trump administration waited until its final months to shake up the influential group of outside experts advising top Pentagon leaders.



Defense Dept. prepares to release assessment guide for cyber certification program


By Sara Friedman, Inside Cybersecurity

The Defense Department is planning to release its assessment guide for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program next week, outlining the details for how companies will be evaluated for maturity levels one through three. “The Assessment guides for level 3 are under internal department review and will be published upon completion on or about 30 November,” a DOD spokeswoman told Inside Cybersecurity Monday.



How to Save Democracy From Technology...Ending Big Tech’s Information Monopoly

By Francis Fukuyama, Barak Richman, and Ashish Goel, Foreign Affairs Among the many transformations taking place in the U.S. economy, none is more salient than the growth of gigantic Internet platforms. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, already powerful before the COVID-19 pandemic, have become even more so during it, as so much of everyday life moves online. As convenient as their technology is, the emergence of such dominant corporations should ring alarm bells—not just because they hold so much economic power but also because they wield so much control over political communication. These behemoths now dominate the dissemination of information and the coordination of political mobilization. That poses unique threats to a well-functioning democracy.



The Social Media Fact-Check Farce

By The WSJ Editorial Board In recent years liberals have successfully lobbied social-media companies to police conservative content more and more aggressively. But there’s little evidence that this political interference has reduced the prevalence of misinformation online—and a new study shows how it could make the problem worse.



10 creative ideas to emerge from COVID-19 ennui


By Sue Horner, PR Daily Please tell me I’m not alone in feeling a lack of creative spirit these days. Sure, some people have taken up baking sourdough bread or learned to play guitar or are singing arias from the balcony every evening. I keep reading that Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” and other plays while quarantined during the plague, and Sir Isaac Newton supposedly did some of his best work during quarantine as well.



When Your Hometown Team Gets a New Identity

Black fans of the Washington Football Team are adapting to a new future for their beloved franchise—and reckoning with its past disregard of Native Americans.

Story by Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic

Three years ago, the Washington Football Team hosted its first-ever Thanksgiving Day game. The franchise had played—and lost—on the holiday many times before. But the 2017 game wasn’t notable just because the team, then known as the Redskins, actually won. That afternoon, a small group of Native American activists gathered outside FedEx Field, the Maryland arena where Washington plays, to educate D.C. fans about the grim irony of the event: A team whose name is a dictionary-defined slur against Indigenous people was playing on a holiday based on damaging myths about Native Americans.



Sports has a Gen Z problem. The pandemic may accelerate it.


By Rick Maese, Washington Post

On any given night, in living rooms across America, the television could be tuned to the big game, mom and dad glued to the action, children nearby. But as most any parent can attest, those children are likely to be virtually somewhere else — an app, a game, a social media feed, perhaps, lost in a smartphone where the scrolling never ends. The big game serves as background noise, if that.


Diego Maradona will be remembered as one of soccer's greatest, the sport's ultimate flawed genius


By Gabriele Marcotti, ESPN

It was four minutes in a rich and fully lived life that spanned six decades, ending on Wednesday as news of the death of Diego Maradona filtered around the world. But, if you can begin to understand them, perhaps you'll understand why Maradona meant so much to so many. And why, as Lionel Messi -- his fellow Argentine and universal GOAT contender alongside Pele and Cristiano Ronaldo -- put it, "He is gone, but he will be with us for eternity."


Vanderbilt Commodores K Sarah Fuller makes history with second-half kickoff


By Alex Scarborough, ESPN

Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game on Saturday when she delivered the opening kickoff of the second half for Vanderbilt against Missouri. Fuller, a senior goalkeeper on Vanderbilt's SEC championship soccer team, sent the low kick to the 35-yard line where it was downed by Missouri. Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said Fuller executed the so-called squib kick exactly as it was designed.



And Finally...








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