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Weekly Update 25-31 Jan 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

3Cs in a Pod: Season3 Ep3 "The Day We All Needed"

Hello and welcome to 3Cs in Pod from Provision Advisors, the podcast for and about the global communications environment. One week in, have we solved the nation’s problems or are we doomed to repeat? We share our perspective on the inauguration itself and what we've watched in the first seven days of the new administration.

Children Need to Be Back in School Tomorrow

Teacher resistance is a disaster for the most vulnerable.

By David Brooks, NYT

There’s a wave of anti-intellectualism sweeping America. There are people across the country who deny evidence, invent their own facts and live in their own fantasyland. We saw it in the Republicans who denied the reality of the Biden election victory and we see it now in the teachers unions that are shutting down schools and marring children’s lives. What are the facts when it comes to Covid-19 and schooling? The first fact is that remote learning is a disaster, especially for disadvantaged students.

How the Search for Covid-19 Treatments Faltered While Vaccines Sped Ahead

Vaccine development exceeded everyone’s expectations. But the next few months will still bring many sick people — and doctors have woefully few drugs with which to treat them.

By Carl Zimmer, NYT Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, as thousands of patients are dying every day in the United States and widespread vaccination is still months away, doctors have precious few drugs to fight the virus.

Racial minorities in America are much more vaccine hesitant

The Economist

The Biden administration has pledged to deliver 150m covid-19 vaccinations within the president’s first 100 days in office, but who should get those shots? Most states are prioritising frontline health-care workers and long-term care-home residents, followed by people aged 75 or older and essential workers. Few states are making sure African-Americans or Hispanics get vaccinated, even though they are three times more likely to die from the virus than whites. In fact minorities may be at the back of the queue for something that is of great value to all Americans.

In Minority Communities, Doctors Are Changing Minds About Vaccination

By Gina Kolata, NYT Like many Black and rural Americans, Denese Rankin, a 55-year-old retired bookkeeper and receptionist in Castleberry, Ala., did not want the Covid-19 vaccine. Ms. Rankin worried about side effects — she had seen stories on social media about people developing Bell’s palsy, for example, after they were vaccinated. She thought the vaccines had come about too quickly to be safe. And she worried that the vaccinations might turn out to be another example in the government’s long history of medical experimentation on Black people.

How the Pandemic Stoked a Backlash to Multilevel Marketing

YouTube vigilantes are taking consumer advocacy into their own hands.

By Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic For decades, multilevel-marketing companies had it easy. Cutco knives, Tupperware containers, and Pampered Chef bread mixes were inoffensive products sold at weeknight wine parties and, later, in themed Facebook groups. For the most part, they were an unremarkable part of women’s lives.

Md. launches ‘aggressive’ COVID-19 vaccine outreach campaign aiming to reach ‘every corner of every community’

By Jack Moore, WTOP

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday the launch of an “aggressive” public outreach campaign aimed at promoting the public’s confidence in the available COVID-19 vaccines, especially in minority communities that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Hogan announced the “GoVax” campaign at a news conference at Camden Yards in Baltimore, alongside Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and a host of other public figures, from pastors to public health professionals, who are acting as ambassadors to the program.

Do We Ask Too Much of Black Heroes?

Every year for a month, we celebrate the heroes of Black history. But these stories can obscure how change happens and who gets left behind.

By Imani Perry, NYT

In the early 20th century, before Negro History Week had turned into Black History Month, African-American teachers and children in schools throughout the segregated South would paste images of celebrated figures of Black history on the walls of their schools. It was a public affirmation that greatness existed among their people despite oppression. As a woman born post desegregation, in 1972, I remember the photocopied programs featuring a list of names to celebrate: Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. DuBois, Daniel Hale Williams, with facts to go along with each. Even then, I knew these models of aspiration were meant to guard me against any feelings of inferiority that might come from not seeing my story in textbooks or on screens.

Schools Must Resist Destructive Anti-racist Demands

Contrary to what activists seem to believe, campuses are not bastions of social injustice. By John McWhorter, The Atrlantic, Contributing writer and professor at Columbia University After George Floyd’s killing last spring, protests have flowered on many campuses, and so have manifestos demanding that the schools fully commit themselves to an anti-racist agenda. More are likely as the school restarts and we move into spring. Some may feel that the enlightened course is to simply satisfy these demands out of a commitment to America’s ongoing racial reckoning. However, just as many will see a mismatch between actual conditions on these campuses and the nature and tone of the manifestos, as well as the protest actions usually accompanying them. Administrations must decide where racial reckoning becomes racial wrecking ball, even amid a sincere commitment to addressing racism both open and systemic.

VMI, under fire for expelling Black cadets, considers changes to prized honor system

By Ian Shapira, The Washington Post In an email to thousands of students, faculty, graduates and parents earlier this month, Virginia Military Institute’s interim superintendent defended its one-strike-and-you’re out honor code as “a national model.” But in private conversations with faculty and alumni, retired Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins is raising questions about VMI’s student-run Honor Court, which The Washington Post revealed in December expels Black students at a disproportionately high rate.

Made in the U.S.A.: Socialism for the Rich. Capitalism for the Rest.

Once we take care of the pandemic, we need to sort this out.

By Thomas L. Friedman, NYT

I understand why Democrats are fuming. Donald Trump ran up budget deficits in his first three years to levels seen in our history only during major wars and financial crises — thanks to tax cuts, military spending and little fiscal discipline. And he did so prepandemic, when the economy was already expanding and unemployment was low. But now that Joe Biden wants to spend more on pandemic relief and prevent the economy from tanking further, many Republicans — on cue — are rediscovering their deficit hawk wings. What frauds.

Speech and Sedition in 2021

The progressive press decides that dissenters should be suppressed.

By The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal Most Americans learn in school about flagship political excesses in U.S. history like Joe McCarthy’s 1950s inquisitions, the post-World War I Red Scare and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Yet a recent Washington Post opinion piece purports to explain “what the 1798 Sedition Act got right.”

Gone But Not Forgotten

Trump’s Long Shadow and the End of American Credibility

By Jonathan Kirshner, Foreign Affairs In the first lecture of any introduction to international relations class, students are typically warned of the pitiless consequences of anarchy. World politics, they are informed, is a self-help system: in the absence of a global authority to enforce rules, there are no guarantees that the behavior of others—at times, dangerous and malevolent others—will be restrained. With their very survival on the line, countries must anticipate the worst about the world and plan and behave accordingly.

The Real Meaning of Hillbilly

By Abby Lee Hood, NYT I can’t remember the first time I heard the word “redneck,” but when I was growing up in Middle Tennessee it was usually spoken with pride — tossed around at the bluegrass festivals I went to. My grandfather would pick guitar, and I’d play fiddle, usually in a circle of old-timers under a shade tree at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.

WallStreetBets Founder Reckons With Legacy Amid Stock-Market Frenzy

By Akane Otani, The Wall Street Journal

The man who created Reddit’s WallStreetBets isn’t who you think he is. He is 39 years old. He lives in Mexico City with his wife, a physician, and spends his weeks chasing after their 3-year-old twins and tending to his day job as a consultant—hardly the sort of character one might associate with the roiling investing forum. He never imagined the Reddit community he created in 2012 would morph into a force so powerful that it would send GameStop Corp. GME 67.87% shares into overdrive, nearly topple a hedge fund and leave professional money managers around the country staring at Twitter with their mouths agape.

Opinion: The good guys in the GameStop story? It’s the hedge funds and short sellers.

By Sebastian Mallaby, The Washington Post Until last week, the quintessentially absurd bubble was the Dutch tulip mania. At least the South Sea bubble of the 18th century involved fraud: Investors thought they were buying shares in a valuable company. At least the dot-com bubble of 1999 involved technological promise: Investors thought the Internet would transform business even faster than it has. But in Holland in the 17th century, investors bid the price of simple tulip bulbs up to ridiculous heights. It was the purest of idiotic fantasies.

Roaring Kitty Wanted to Break a 4-Minute Mile. He Broke Wall Street Instead.

Before he became the Reddit user behind the GameStop surge, Keith Gill was a college track star. When injuries blocked him from his dreams, he traded running for investing.

By Joshua Robinson, Ben Cohen, Julia-Ambra Verlaine and Gunjan Banerji, The Wall Street Journal The man who roiled the markets and found himself at the center of a trade that might have changed Wall Street forever spent most of his life obsessed with a number other than GameStop Corp.’s GME 67.87% stock price: his mile time. Long before he went by “DeepF—ingValue” on Reddit and “Roaring Kitty” on YouTube, Keith Gill was known simply as one of the fastest kids in his town. Gill never aspired to be an amateur stock picker. He dreamed of being a professional runner.

GameStop, Reddit Shows the Need for PR to Monitor All Platforms

By Eric Fischgrund, PR Newswire

If you went down a rabbit hole to learn about Reddit, Gamestop and the events on Wall Street, you’re not alone. Reddit users, savvy online investors and internet enthusiasts everywhere have reveled in their ability to take a household brand name and make it relevant again, all while sticking it to the financial institution’s old guard. Throughout this fiasco there are several lessons for communicators.

To Counter China’s Rise, the U.S. Should Focus on Xi

A proposal for a full reboot of American strategy toward China.

By ANONYMOUS, for Politico, The author is a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China. In 1946, the American diplomat George Kennan wrote a lengthy cable to Washington—since dubbed the “Long Telegram”—laying out the basis for the next several decades of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. He published his work as an article under the simple pseudonym “X.” In that spirit, a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China has published with the Atlantic Council a bold and ambitious new U.S. strategy toward its next great global rival. It is similarly delivered anonymously, which the author requested, and POLITICO granted. Here the author describes the broad outlines of the strategy.

China Is Now Sending Twitter Users to Prison for Posts Most Chinese Can’t See

More than 50 people have been jailed in past three years in an escalation of Communist Party assault on use of foreign social media

By Chun Han Wong, The Wall Street Journal

China’s Communist Party is amping up efforts to control its image around the world by jailing Chinese citizens, many of them ordinary people with little influence, who use foreign social media to criticize Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his government. Chinese authorities have sentenced more than 50 people to prison in the past three years for using Twitter and other foreign platforms—all blocked in China—allegedly to disrupt public order and attack party rule, according to a Wall Street Journal examination of court records and a database maintained by a free-speech activist.

Delusions of Dominance

Biden Can’t Restore American Primacy—and Shouldn’t Try

By Stephen Wertheim Four years ago, as Joe Biden prepared to leave the vice-presidency, he told the World Economic Forum that the United States would continue to lead the “liberal international order” and “fulfill our historic responsibility as the indispensable nation.” The years that followed were not kind to Biden’s assurances. President Donald Trump rejected a world-ordering role for the United States, unleashing “America first” nationalism instead. More important, perhaps, Trump exposed the shallow domestic political support for the high-minded abstractions for which foreign policy elites ask soldiers to fight and citizens to pay. By the time of his presidential campaign in 2020, Biden no longer spoke much about the liberal international order or American indispensability. He emphasized healing the country’s domestic wounds and influencing others “not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” But Biden will need to be much bolder if his presidency

Protecting Democracy in an Age of Disinformation: Lessons from Taiwan


Taiwan has long defended itself from political meddling, including disinformation, by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Attempts to influence Taiwan’s domestic politics have increased in both intensity and severity following the election of Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, with Beijing continuing to target the basic underpinnings of Taiwan’s democratic system. The disinformation campaigns carried out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are often obscured by the secrecy and opacity of the CCP’s “united front” approach, which makes it difficult to accurately diagnose and right-size the problem of disinformation, complicating efforts to craft effective solutions.

We need a bigger and smarter Navy

By Steve Cohen, The Hill Last September, apparently lost in the fog of the presidential campaign, came some disturbing news: the Chinese Navy is now larger than America’s. They now have approximately 350 ships and submarines, compared to America’s 293. True, the U.S. fleet still boasts far more aircraft carriers than China — 11 versus 2 — but that offers little comfort. China’s reputed anti-ship missiles are forcing our carriers further away from the Asian mainland, limiting their effectiveness. More troubling, China is leading the world in ship production. In the past 10 years, China has increased its number of battle force ships by 140, while the U.S. has only grown by 9. Importantly, that trend has accelerated in the past five years; more than 100 of China’s additions were made between 2015 and 2020.

Biden Wants the Biggest Stimulus in Modern History. Is It Too Big?

Supporters of a ‘hot’ economy see a chance to correct the mistakes of the last recession. Others see danger.

By Neil Irwin, NYT

President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package includes money for many goals: expediting the rollout of coronavirus vaccines; reopening schools; expanding unemployment benefits; sending more cash payments to most Americans.

G.M. Will Sell Only Zero-Emission Vehicles by 2035

By Neal E. Boudette and Coral Davenport, NYT

General Motors said Thursday that it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a seismic shift by one of the world’s largest automakers that makes billions of dollars today from gas-guzzling pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Applications surge after big-name colleges halt SAT and ACT testing rules.

By Nick Anderson, The Washington Post

The University of Virginia drew a record 48,000 applications for the next class in Charlottesville — about 15 percent more than the year before. Freshman applications to the University of California at Berkeley crossed into six figures for the first time, totaling more than 112,000, up 28 percent. Harvard University’s total spiked to an all-time high of 57,000. That’s up 42 percent. The sudden explosion in demand for these and other big-name schools is another ripple effect of the coronavirus pandemic that could reshape college admissions for many years to come. The pandemic has given huge — and in some places, decisive — momentum to a movement to reduce or even eliminate the use of admissions testing at highly competitive colleges and universities. That, in turn, has lured more applicants to the upper tier of the market.

Zuckerberg’s pledge to depoliticize Facebook hits grassroots movements

Facebook was the future of politics. Now organizers fear that's a thing of the past. By Elena Schneider and Cristiano Lima, Politico Facebook’s decision to permanently stop recommending political groups to its users is a major hit for movements that have grown to rely on social media to draw in first-time activists. But progressive grassroots organizers and digital campaign strategists saw something else in the tech giant’s announcement: a cop-out. Advocacy group leaders — who have long called on Facebook and other tech giants to clamp down on incendiary posts and hate speech, arguing that it led to radicalization on social platforms and contributed to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — say the company’s latest policy shift won’t fix its problems with politics. And they fear it will disadvantage organizers who help to usher new people into new movements, like the Trump-era women’s marches or Black Lives Matter protests.

Once Again, Headlines Offer Lessons for PR Pros

By Arthur Solomon, PR Newswire

Reading news should be the first thing a PR pro does each morning. It alerts you to events that might influence the companies you represent. In addition, the news is a living text book, particularly for communicators. Below are examples of 2020 headlines that PR pros, young and older, can learn from.

App rush: Talent over trash

By Sara Fischer, Ashley Gold

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise. The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Trust Trending High For Communications Priorities

By Nicole Schuman, PR Daily

Trust could easily win as an early word-of-the-year in 2021. After a deluge of misinformation and disinformation through the 2020 presidential election, confusion from the top when it comes to battling COVID-19, and a recorded public skepticism for media, many organizations, brands and public figures see trust as fundamental to reconnect with communities. It’s a necessity in messaging, and it’s on communicators to figure out the best way to deliver trust. Several recent examples of trust have broken through, establishing a precedence in the new year.

COVID forces Coachella to cancel for the third time

By Oriana Gonzalez, Axios

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was called off Friday due to coronavirus concerns, according to a tweet from Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County where the annual festival is held. The state of play: Coachella was among the first major events canceled in April 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. It was rescheduled to October, and again pushed back to April 2021. Riverside County health officials also canceled the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. New dates for the festivals have not been announced.

The Curt Schilling mess shows how baseball’s Hall of Fame voting process is broken

Curt Schilling now says he doesn't want to be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame next year.

By Barry Svrluga, The Washington Post

It would be nice to politely discuss Curt Schilling’s candidacy for baseball’s Hall of Fame by looking at the numbers and only the numbers. Maybe, for some, 216 wins seem too few. Maybe, others would counter, 3,116 strikeouts are enough, given that only 14 pitchers have recorded more — and 13 of them are in Cooperstown already. Plus, all the postseason heroics. Let’s chew on it.

Ad Meter 2021 roundup: The latest Super Bowl commercials to premiere

By Rick Suter, USA Today

The Super Bowl is just over a week away, and the commercials that will tempt to capture the approval of the millions of fans are beginning to go live ahead of February 7. This year’s Big Game spots have a price tag of nearly $5.6 million for 30 seconds of airtime. So, expectedly, some brands are looking to make an impression on the national audience well before people start making trips to the refrigerator during breaks in the Super Bowl LV action. And that’s A-OK by us!

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