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Weekly Update 24-30 May 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

At Naval Academy Graduation, Harris Focuses on Strengthening a ‘Fragile’ World

By Katie Rogers, The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris achieved another first for women on Friday when she addressed the graduating class of the United States Naval Academy, becoming the first female commencement speaker in the school’s nearly 175-year history. The vice president’s speech focused on some of the Biden administration’s most urgent challenges, like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and a host of increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats — occurrences she called “warning shots” that would require a military trained to counter them. “A gang of hackers can disrupt the fuel supply of a whole seaboard,” Ms. Harris said. “One country’s carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the whole earth. This, midshipmen, is the era we are in — and it is unlike any era that came before.”

Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications

Fewer babies’ cries. More abandoned homes. Toward the middle of this century, as deaths start to exceed births, changes will come that are hard to fathom.

By Damien Cave, Emma Bubola and Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore. Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

If You Thought Working From Home Was Messy, Here Comes Hybrid Work

Mandatory Mondays and Fridays. Unused desks and crowded conference rooms. Employers and workers navigate a return to offices.

By Chip Cutter, The Wall Street Journal

It took months for bosses and employees to adjust to working remotely in the pandemic. The next era of work might be even more messy. Companies are laying down new rules and setting expectations for hybrid work as some workers come back in and others remain out of office. At JPMorgan Chase JPM 0.54% & Co., employees on some teams can schedule work-from-home days, but not on Mondays or Fridays. At Inc. offices that have reopened, Thursdays are proving to be the most popular in-office day, creating high demand for meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, and prompting the company to rethink its office design.

Athletes Will Never Be Quiet Again

A year of activism after George Floyd’s murder reframed the role of sports in American public life.

By Jemele Hill, for The Atlantic

George Floyd’s murder last Memorial Day persuaded a lot of people in sports to use their public profile to fight racism in America. So it was fitting that the NBA, its players’ union, and the WNBA players’ union joined together Tuesday, the first anniversary of Floyd’s death, to publicly challenge Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

90 Seconds Together

I’m not ready to give up on the anthem and the ritual of standing while it is played.

By Martin E. Dempsey, for The Atlantic, Dempsey was the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is a Rubenstein fellow at Duke University and chairman of USA Basketball.

During operation desert storm, after Iraq’s Republican Guard had been forced out of Kuwait, my brigade set up a checkpoint on the only highway from Kuwait to Baghdad. We established a medical treatment facility and raised the American flag. It was a signal to the oppressed population of southern Iraq. Dozens of Iraqis came to the facility each day, assured by the flag that they would be safe. I kept that flag, and today it hangs in my office, framed with a photograph of the checkpoint.

Is It Respectful to 'Celebrate' Memorial Day?

By Shauna Springer, for For many Americans, Memorial Day has essentially been a day of vacation -- a day off work to enjoy a barbecue with friends and family. For others, Memorial Day is a day of mourning. Many who take the oath of service will feel gut-wrenching grief as they remember their fallen brothers and sisters. Those who serve in the military and first-responder tribes become family. Imagine facing a day every year when you suddenly feel the collective weight of grieving the deaths of several people you love like family.

Is Wokeness ‘Kryptonite for Democrats’?

By Thomas B. Edsall As Republicans well know, Democrats are divided on a host of volatile racial, cultural and sexual issues. Take a look at the polls. n 2019, the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group commissioned a survey asking for agreement or disagreement with the statement: “There are only two genders, male and female.” In the full sample, a decisive majority, 59 percent agreed, including 43 percent who “strongly agreed,” 32 percent disagreed and 9 percent who said they weren’t sure. Among Republicans, it was no contest, 78 percent agreed and 16 percent disagreed. Independents mirrored the whole sample.Democrats were split: a plurality, 48 percent, disagreed, and 44 percent agreed.

The Wuhan lab-leak theory is getting more attention. That’s because key evidence is still missing.

By Adam Taylor, The Washington Post

A new surge of interest has revived the lab-leak theory. Well over a year since a novel coronavirus began to spread in Wuhan, the idea that the deadly outbreak could be linked to a virus research center in the Chinese city has lingered, unproven but not eliminated. Although the resurgent chatter may suggest new clues or proof, the inverse is in fact true. It is the persistent absence of any convincing evidence either for or against the theory that has prompted calls for more investigation. President Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community does “not believe there is sufficient information” to fully understand the likelihood of different scenarios for explaining the origin of the virus that causes covid-19.

Wuhan Lab Theory Is a Media Warning

The news business is headed for trouble if it won’t control its biases as other professions do. By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., The Wall Street Journal On what basis was the lab leak theory ruled out for months by the media despite the lack of any evidence or logic for ruling it out? We’re bad journalists, has been the unembarrassed answer from the media this week in a wide array of print and online publications as well as National Public Radio.

Opinion: It was already tough to fight disinformation. Then UFO news came along.

By Charlie Warzel, The Washington Post It’s a weird time to be alive. Covid cases in the United States are declining, but vaccination rates are stalling, too. In places such as India, the pandemic rages almost unabated. Parody cryptocurrencies and meme stocks, driven by billionaire tweets and Reddit threads, have flummoxed Wall Street and minted and destroyed fortunes by the second. Hackers hijacked regional pipelines, causing a gas shortage and demanding a crypto ransom. The government is reexamining previously dismissed coronavirus origin theories. Then, of course, there are UFOs. The sci-fi fliers have gone from fringe conspiracy theory to legitimate matter of national security in just months. Even former president Barack Obama has admitted the existence of recordings of flying objects that experts cannot explain.

Lessons Earned: How a PR Pro Recovered from an Awful Mistake

By Cindy Villafranca, PR News

You know the feeling. The knot-in-your-stomach, lump-in-your-throat sensation when you realize you’ve made a mistake. It was May 2014. The day began like any other. I was compiling news headlines for a daily round-up email to employees. Back then, that's how companies communicated with employees about internal and industry news. Each morning I combed through thousands of stories, picked the most relevant, formatted the publication, double-checked hyperlinks and hit 'Send,' to more than 50,000 employees. I was working on other things when an email alert arrived with the subject line: 'DID YOU MEAN TO SEND THIS?' My heart sank.

GOP senators block Jan. 6 Commission, ending bid for independent probe of Capitol riot

By Karoun Demirjian, The Washington Post

The bipartisan push to independently investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot suffered a fatal blow Friday, after nearly all Senate Republicans banded together in opposition. The 54 to 35 outcome, which fell six votes shy of the 60 needed to circumvent a procedural filibuster, followed hours of overnight chaos as lawmakers haggled over unrelated legislation. The vote stood as a blunt rejection by Republicans of an emotional last-minute appeal from the family of a Capitol Police officer who died after responding to the insurrection, and an eleventh-hour bid by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to save the measure by introducing changes intended to address her party’s principal objections.

LISTEN: Defense & Aerospace Podcast [Washington Roundtable May 28 ’21] Budget Day

On this Washington Roundtable episode of the Defense & Aerospace Report Podcast, sponsored by Bell, our guests are Dov Zakheim, PhD, former DoD comptroller, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Arnold Punaro, the chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association and CEO of the Punaro Group consultancy, Bob Hale, former Pentagon comptroller and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Michael Herson, President and CEO, American Defense International and Chris Servello, a founder of Provision Advisors (and Defense and Aerospace producer).

Biden Requests Less Than 1% Boost to Pentagon R&D, Despite Hyping New Defense Tech

As the Defense Department shifts its focus toward more technologically advanced potential adversaries, it will have to research and develop more and sustain less. By Patrick Tucker, Defense One After a half-decade in which the Pentagon’s research budget saw larger increases, the Biden administration will request a real boost of less than one percent. If inflation stays around 4 percent, the Defense Department’s 2022 request for $112 billion for research, development, test, and engineering would be about 0.6 percent more than the $107 billion requested for the current fiscal year. That follows several years of larger increases in research dollars, reflecting the Pentagon’s slow but steady shift toward countering the quickly advancing capabilities of China and Russia.

Fleet Growth Stymied by Fiscal Year 2022 Navy Budget Request

By Christopher P. Cavas, USNI

The long-delayed Navy Fiscal Year 2022 budget request submitted to Congress May 28 reflects modest increases in several areas, but overall shows no significant changes, either in weapons procurement or readiness accounts. The service is asking for eight ships, but only four are combatants – two submarines, one destroyer and one frigate – while the other four are support ships. The request for new ships is counteracted by the decision to inactivate 15 ships, including seven cruisers and four Littoral Combat Ships. Aircraft purchases drop significantly, from 96 in 2021 to 59 in 2022, but that reflects the end of several product lines, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Biden proposes giving federal employees a 2.7 percent raise next year

By Eric Yoder, The Washington Post

President Biden used his budgetary proposal released Friday to reinforce how his approach to the federal workforce differs from that of his predecessor, calling for a 2.7 percent raise that would go into effect January 2022, exceeding any raise proposed by President Donald Trump. The budget also would allow for increased staffing at a number of agencies including the Veterans Affairs, Labor and Energy departments. While federal employment grew by about 3 percent overall during the Trump administration, growth at a few large departments masked cuts elsewhere, some of them deep.

Pentagon Puts Provisions to Fight Extremism Among Soldiers in New Budget Request

By Daniel Villarreal, Newsweek

A line item in the Department of Defense's (DOD) proposed budget includes $30.8 million for "punitive regulation on extremist activities" and other anti-extremist prevention measures. The budget proposal contained few details. Nevertheless, the millions would help the military train, screen and create policies for reducing extremist ideologies among its members. This would include "vetting protocols," social media monitoring to screen out extremists, a case management tool for tracking concerning extremist activities and punishments for service members found guilty of furthering extremism.

Sole U.S. Aircraft Carrier in Asia-Pacific to Help With Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

USS Ronald Reagan will support pullout, leaving the Asia-Pacific without a carrier presence for first time in years By Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold, The Wall Street Journal The Pentagon is expected to move the only aircraft carrier currently based in the Asia-Pacific region toward the Middle East to support the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, defense officials said. The USS Ronald Reagan, whose home port is in Yokosuka, Japan, will head toward Afghanistan beginning this summer, the officials said, and will operate there for up to four months.

Why Is America Steaming Out of the Pacific?

The Penatgon chief calls China the ‘pacing’ challenge but is wearing out naval assets in the Middle East.

By Dustin Walker, for The Wall Street Journal The aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan will deploy from its home port in Japan to the Middle East this summer to support the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. The move came at the request of U.S. Central Command and was approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Why Executives Should Weigh The Pros And Cons Before Paying Workers To Get Covid Shots

By Edward Segal, Forbes

As Covid-19 vaccination rates continue to decline in the U.S., some major companies are deciding to pay employees to get their shots as soon as possible. For example, Walmart recently announced it was offering workers $75 as an incentive to get inoculated. But just because business leaders can pay their employees to get vaccinated, does not mean they should. While financial incentives might help end the Covid pandemic and enable companies to get back to normal sooner rather than later, it is not a risk-free strategy.

Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

By Mae Anderson, Associated Press

Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory? Yes, with some exceptions. Experts say U.S. employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination. That doesn’t necessarily mean you would get fired if you refuse, but you might need to sign a waiver or agree to work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose to yourself or others.

Opinion: The horror of Tulsa still reverberates. It shows why America needs to take reparations seriously.

By Karen Attiah, The Washington Post

For Black people in America, the fight for justice and safety can feel like a cruel game of musical chairs. The dull beat of anti-Blackness is always humming in the background, commanding us round and round in familiar cycles of protest, resistance, organizing and documenting our trauma. Sometimes the odious beat seems to stop, offering what feels like a respite — for those lucky enough to survive the last cycle.

5 essential steps for responding to external criticism

When consumers lodge complaints, your response can either defuse the situation or add fuel to the fire. Here is a model to ensure critics feel heard, while leaving room to correct the record.

By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily

How you respond to complaints—whether online or in person—says a lot about your brand to potential customers. Too defensive? Audiences will assume you have something to hide. Fail to correct the record? Misinformation and rumors might be taken as fact. For communicators in the digital age, where misinformation has been industrialized and weaponized, being able to fight back against falsehoods while remaining thoughtful and respectful is paramount.

Popeyes Releases Diversity Scorecard on Marketing Efforts

Fast-food chain says it will give preference to agencies that are committed to improving racial and ethnic diversity within their ranks

By Nat Ives, The Wall Street Journal

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has begun publishing data showing the racial and ethnic breakdown of internal and external personnel involved in its marketing efforts and said it would give preference to ad agencies that demonstrate a commitment to improving their diversity. The fast-food chain said it would release the information annually to show how diversity is faring in the casts of its ads, its creative production teams, its teams at ad agencies and its own marketing department. It said it would take other measures, including mandating that at least 50% of the candidates bidding to direct its ads be ethnically diverse or female.

And Finally...

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