Weekly Update 29 Mar-04 Apr 21
Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.
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Distancing and isolation shaped who we are.
By David Brooks, NYT I don’t know about you, but I’ve found the latest stage of the pandemic hard in its own distinct way. The cumulative effect of a year of repetition, isolation and stress has induced a lassitude — a settling into the familiar, with feelings of vulnerability. The shock of a year ago has been replaced by a sluggish just-getting-to-the-end. I’ve got the same scattered memory issues many others in this Groundhog Day life describe: walking into a room and wondering why I went there; spending impressive amounts of time looking for my earbuds; forgetting the names of people and places outside my Covid bubble.
By Ray A. Smith, Wall Street Journal
When high-school teacher Ryan Tibbens learned he would be resuming in-person school in March, he embarked on a mission. He wanted to continue the naps he’d been taking while working from home over the past year. “I didn’t want to pull the classic ‘Seinfeld’ episode where George Costanza sleeps under his desk,” said Mr. Tibbens, who is 37 and lives in Berryville, Va. So he bought a cot online and installed it in a backroom at school. He naps there for about 12 minutes during his 30-minute lunch break at least three days a week. Although he says he got permission from school administrators, he said, “I’m still a little paranoid that somebody’s going to walk in and not know what’s going on, and be like, ‘Who’s this hobo in the back?’ ”
By Sarah Lyall, NYT
Like many of us, the writer Susan Orlean is having a hard time concentrating these days. “Good morning to everyone,” she tweeted recently, “but especially to the sentence I just rewrote for the tenth time.” “I feel like I’m in quicksand,” she explained by phone from California, where she has been under quasi-house arrest for the last year. “I’m just so exhausted all the time. I’m doing so much less than I normally do — I’m not traveling, I’m not entertaining, I’m just sitting in front of my computer — but I am accomplishing way less. It’s like a whole new math. I have more time and fewer obligations, yet I’m getting so much less done.”
By Ted Kitterman, PR Daily
Consumer confidence is on the rebound as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and workers begin to return to the office. It’s this hopeful backdrop that underpins a dire warning in G&S Business Communications’ report “The Future is Loading.” Comms must integrate the digital experience or risk losing market share. The digital transformation of the past year shows up in all kinds of ways, from trade shows to customer service.
The company’s social-media aggression is shocking. It shouldn’t be. By Ian Bogost, The Atlantic
What the hell is Amazon doing? The company is behaving like a common troll on social media, which is not the usual stance for a giant corporation. As someone who has spent an ungodly amount of time studying brand behavior on the internet, I have a theory—but, first, let me back up. Over the past week, Amazon has mounted an aggressive public-opinion campaign in what appears to be an effort to discredit its warehouse workers in Alabama, who are trying to unionize. The company started by targeting legislators. First, Dave Clark, Amazon’s head of worldwide consumer business, went after Bernie Sanders on Twitter, after the senator encouraged the Alabama workers to vote for a union. Then, Amazon moved the fight to its official Twitter news account, which has some 170,000 followers. That account responded to Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who had invoked recent news that Amazon workers urinated in bottles out of fear of missing production quotas.
By The Economist
The Paris agreement, negotiated at a United Nations summit in 2015, committed its 194 signatory countries (plus the European Union) to try and keep the world’s average temperature to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and if possible 1.5°C. The world is already perilously close to that target. In recent years, the average global temperature has regularly been at least 1°C higher than those recorded at the end of the 19th century; in 2020, it was 1.2°C more. The World Meteorological Organisation, a UN agency, predicts that there is “at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5°C by 2024”. Most of that warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of about 0.15-0.2°C per decade. Accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make further warming inevitable. But what difference will a few tenths of a degree make?
Listen: Defense & Aerospace Report Cyber Report: Jim Lewis on the Need for Leadership, Commitment & Focus
James Lewis, PhD, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies discusses the week’s top cyber headlines with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian. Northrop Grumman also sponsors our broader cyber coverage.
If China maintains control over the supply chain, it will be able to deny power to advanced U.S. weapons.
By Arthur Herman and Nadia Schadlow, WSJ The massive push toward electric vehicles presents risks and opportunities for America’s military. As adversaries make it harder for U.S. forces to reach and operate across long distances, the energy provided by advanced batteries can help the Pentagon achieve its multiple missions. This requires a secure innovation and production base for advanced battery technology, something the U.S. doesn’t have at the moment. In 2008 Congress directed the Pentagon to create an office for “operational energy” to address the use of energy on the battlefield. The priority then was to reduce the Defense Department’s huge energy bills of around $20 billion a year. During one five-year period at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 3,000 American soldiers and contractors were killed in fuel-supply convoys. As Marine Gen. Jim Amos observed, the Marine Corps’ “thirst for liquid fuel” came at a heavy price.
Beijing Bullies Its Neighbor By Unconventional Means
By Brahma Chellaney, Foreign Affairs On October 12, 2020, the electricity went out in India’s biggest city. Mumbai faced its worst power cut in decades, with businesses crippled, the stock market shut down, thousands of commuters stranded, and hospitals scrambling to ensure backup supply for their COVID-19 patients. Major outages are not altogether uncommon in India, but Mumbai had prided itself on its recent record of reliable electricity for its residents. The disruption left authorities in the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, searching for answers.
By Bob Work, War on the Rocks
It’s that time of year when the president’s annual budget is due to Congress, and with it, the annual update to the Pentagon’s future years defense program. The program is a projection of the forces, resources, and capabilities needed to support Department of Defense operations over a five-year period. The future years defense program covers the current “year of execution” and the next four years. These five-year plans are typically delivered to Congress with the defense resources for the two previous fiscal years and force structure estimates for the three years following the program.
The stuck container ship became the butt of online jokes, but it was no minor crisis.
By Serge Schmemann, NYT
In the end, a full moon succeeded where puny machines could not, wrenching the mammoth barge out of the Egyptian mud in which it became wedged six days earlier. A spring tide finally set the Ever Given and its enormous stack of 18,300 shipping containers afloat again, drawing cheers from Egyptians on the shore and a virtual world beyond. Before long, some 350 freighters blocked from traversing the Suez Canal hoisted anchor and began moving through; insurers mournfully took out their abacuses, and people near and far went back to their far drearier crises of pandemic, ailing businesses, wars, racism, autocracy and refugees.
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Siobhán O'Grady and Steve Hendrix - The Washington Post
In the predawn dark, Magdy Gamal sat in the bridge of the Mosaed 2 and stared up at an iron wall of futility. So far, nothing in six frantic, hazardous days of effort had budged the massive bulk of the Ever Given, 200,000 tons of steel and consumer goods blocking the fourth-busiest shipping lane in the world. Day after day, the unmoving mass had loomed over a beetle-like swarm of machinery and humans — excavators, dredgers, tugboats — that dug and pushed and pulled to no avail. With the engines and cables of the Mosaed 2 and the other tugs straining to the breaking point, every attempt to loosen gravity’s grip on that hull had failed with each tide that deserted them, the waters receding in their unrelenting cycle. “The tide is like a ghost we are trying to face,” said Gamal, 30.
Resilience comes not from autarky but from diverse sources of supply
The Economist For the best part of a week, the Suez canal was blocked by a 200,000-tonne metaphor. The Ever Given is not just one of the world’s biggest container ships, it is also the emblem of a backlash that accuses globalisation of going too far. Since the early 1990s supply chains have been run to maximise efficiency. Firms have sought to specialise and to concentrate particular tasks in places that offer economies of scale. Now, however, there are growing worries that, like a ship which is too big to steer, supply chains have become a source of vulnerability.
What is Navy For?
By Nicholas A. Lambert, Proceedings
Speaking to Congress, the Chief of Naval Operations recently argued that the purpose of the U.S. Navy hinged on the timeless missions of sea control and power projection.1 Perhaps so. But to most people, these phrases raise more questions than they answer. Control at what cost, and to what end? Power to do what, exactly? Projected where and how? Such declarations seem unlikely to induce taxpayers to fork over the enormous sums entailed, especially when so many think the money could be better spent fixing pressing domestic problems. But this is nothing new.
By Clyde McGrady, WashPost
One night in 1980 or so, the legendary songwriter Nile Rodgers went on a bad date.
He was out at a club with a group of people, he says, including Eddie Murphy and Rick James. Rodgers was big-time. His band, Chic, had topped the charts with hits such as “I Want Your Love” and “Good Times.” But at heart he was still a humble kid whose parents had struggled with drug addiction and who felt fortunate to have made it as far as he did. So, when his date asked the maitre d’ to remove people from a table so they could sit there instead, Rodgers bristled.
By Andrew Ross Sorkin and David Gelles, The New York Times
Dozens of the most prominent Black business leaders in America are banding together to call on companies to fight a wave of restrictive voting bills being advanced by Republicans in at least 43 states. The campaign appears to be the first time that so many powerful Black executives have organized to directly call out their peers for failing to stand up for racial justice. The effort, led by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, is a response to the swift passage of a Georgia law that they contend makes it harder for Black people to vote. As the debate about that bill raged in recent weeks, most major corporations — including those with headquarters in Atlanta — did not take a position on the legislation.
They’re denouncing Georgia’s election law, but have they read it?
By The WSJ Editorial Board The public debate on Georgia’s new voting law has become a stew of falsehood, propaganda and panic. Part of the blame lies with the partisan distortion of Democrats, part with their media echoes, and now part with CEOs of major companies who are uninformed at best or cowardly at worst. Start with President Biden, the great unifier, who on Wednesday to ESPN called the law “ Jim Crow on steroids,” while saying he’d “strongly support” moving the Major League Baseball all-star game out of Atlanta. He’s picking up the smear about Georgia from Stacey Abrams, who still hasn’t accepted that she lost the race for Peach State Governor in 2018.
By Luis Ferré-Sadurní, NYT
After years of stalled attempts, New York State has legalized the use of recreational marijuana, enacting a robust program that will reinvest millions of dollars of tax revenues from cannabis in minority communities ravaged by the decades-long war on drugs. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the cannabis legislation on Wednesday, a day after the State Legislature passed the bill following hours of debate among lawmakers in Albany. New York became the 15th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, positioning itself to quickly become one of the largest markets of legal cannabis in the nation and one of the few states where legalization is directly tied to economic and racial equity.
By Molly Jong-Fast, Vogue Magazine.
The scandal that’s currently rocking Washington started less than 24 hours ago when Axios reported that Florida congressman Matt Gaetz was eyeing an “early retirement to take a job at Newsmax,” according to sources. It was a story that didn’t make much sense: Why would a young Republican congressman from a ruby red district (the Cook Political Report has his district as a +22 GOP), who would surely be reelected, take early retirement to work at a second-tier conservative media outlet? It defied all political logic. But a few hours later, when The New York Times published a story about his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl, the whole thing made a lot more sense.
By Elizabeth Grace Saunders
Do you feel so busy that you don’t have the bandwidth to think about your own needs, let alone do anything about them? Maybe you’re constantly thinking about work, or worry that you’re not proving yourself or your value if you aren’t available 24/7 (especially if you’re working remotely). Perhaps you’re juggling childcare, eldercare, pet care, or other family commitments. Or maybe you’re just caught up in the regular “life” tasks of paying bills, keeping a clean house, and managing the day-to-day. How do you carve out time for yourself, your health, and your needs when you’re always on?
Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry said the time was right for him to leave social media in the wake of increasing instances of footballers receiving racist abuse online, telling the BBC on Monday that "it is not a safe place." Henry announced last week that he will no longer be using social media until the platforms do more to tackle racism and bullying online as footballers such as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe (twice) and Lauren James have all been subjected to racist abuse over the past few months."It was time to make a stand," Henry said on BBC programme Newsnight.
By Nina Totenberg, NPR
As March Madness plays out on TV, the U.S. Supreme Court takes a rare excursion into sports law Wednesday in a case testing whether the NCAA's limits on compensation for student athletes violate the nation's antitrust laws. The outcome could have enormous consequences for college athletics. The NCAA maintains that notwithstanding antitrust law, the amateur sports governing body may impose certain limits on athlete compensation in order to preserve relative parity of play, and to maintain what the NCAA contends is the essence of college sports' popularity — namely, amateurism.