Weekly Update 19-25 July 21

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

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American Dysfunction Is the Biggest Barrier to Fighting Covid

By Zeynep Tufekci, NYT
Dr. Tufekci is a contributing Opinion writer who has extensively examined the Covid-19 pandemic.

Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic is a threat because of scarcity of vaccines, with the highly transmissible Delta variant threatening millions around the world who can’t get vaccinated.
In the United States, the threat is dysfunction, with unwanted vaccines ready to expire on the shelves as desperate people around the world die for lack of them.
“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently said, as the data shows that almost everyone who died from Covid-19 recently was unvaccinated.
Certainly the severe consequences will fall mostly on the unvaccinated. But the dysfunction affects all Americans.

CDC guidance on masking needs to change — now

Opinion by Jerome Adams, former U.S. surgeon general, The Washington Post

I know what it’s like to be well-intentioned but wrong on masking. Last year, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization recommendations and limited knowledge about asymptomatic spread, I initially said masks were not effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus. After realizing you’ve erred, the best way forward is to own the situation and hit the reset button. That’s what I did — and that’s what the CDC needs to do, too. 

America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong

They’re not all anti-vaxxers, and treating them as such is making things worse.

By Ed Yong, The Atlantic

Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that COVID-19 is “becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” President Joe Biden said much the same shortly after. They are technically correct. Even against the fast-spreading Delta variant, the vaccines remain highly effective, and people who haven’t received them are falling sick far more often than those who have. But their vulnerability to COVID-19 is the only thing that unvaccinated people universally share. They are disparate in almost every way that matters, including why they haven’t yet been vaccinated and what it might take to persuade them. 

Report: Family Members, Doctors are Still the Influencers Vaccination Campaigns Need

By Sophie Maerowitz, PR News

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccine encouragement, the most potent influencer may just be the person who sleeps beside you every night. New findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicate that among those resistant to get a vaccine six months ago, one in five previously vaccine-averse individuals now say that have received a vaccine, in part due to family pressure. KFF’s latest report follows up with 878 respondents, including those who said they would not be getting the vaccine in January. So why the change in sentiment? So far, government PSAs have struggled to move the needle (literally), and per the White House, social media companies have failed to adequately crack down on vaccine misinformation.

4 Reasons I’m Wearing a Mask Again

Our vaccines are extraordinary, but right now they need all the help they can get.

By Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic

Earlier this month, I pulled a mask out of the bin of hats, scarves, and gloves I keep by the door; strapped it on; and choked. I had inhaled a mouthful of cat hair—several weeks’ worth, left by my gray tabby, Calvin, who has been napping on a nest of face coverings since I largely dispensed with them in May. I’ve been fully vaccinated for two months. I spent the end of spring weaning myself off of masking indoors, and exchanging, for the first time, visible smiles with neighbors in the lobby of our apartment building. I dined, for the first time in a year and a half, at a restaurant.

Coronavirus variant imperils federal government’s back-to-the-office plans

By Lisa Rein, The Washington Post

The Biden administration’s effort to bring much of the massive federal workforce back to the office this fall is facing a new disruption just as the government was firming up detailed plans to move past the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of agencies submitted their return-to-office plans to the White House budget office to meet last Monday’s deadline, laying out how they would begin to phase out remote work for hundreds of thousands of employees after Labor Day, with a full return to federal offices planned by the end of the year. Detailed strategies for office cleaning, coronavirus testing, staggered work schedules and repositioned desks for social distancing were included, along with which jobs will be eligible for continued full- and part-time telework.

Delays, More Masks and Mandatory Shots: Virus Surge Disrupts Office-Return Plans

A wave of the contagious Delta variant is causing companies to reconsider when they will require employees to return, and what health requirements should be in place when they do.

By Lauren Hirsch and Kellen Browning, The New York Times

Several hospital systems that previously held off making vaccines mandatory for health care workers are now willing to do so. Google employees in California who have voluntarily returned to the office are again wearing masks indoors. Goldman Sachs is considering whether to reinstitute testing for fully vaccinated employees in the company’s New York City offices, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because nothing had been decided. And on Monday, Apple told its work force that it would push back its return-to-office date from September to October.

How Science Lost the Public’s Trust

From climate to Covid, politics and hubris have disconnected scientific institutions from the philosophy and method that ought to guide them.

By Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ
‘Science” has become a political catchword. “I believe in science,” Joe Biden tweeted six days before he was elected president. “ Donald Trump doesn’t. It’s that simple, folks.”
But what does it mean to believe in science? The British science writer Matt Ridley draws a pointed distinction between “science as a philosophy” and “science as an institution.” The former grows out of the Enlightenment, which Mr. Ridley defines as “the primacy of rational and objective reasoning.” The latter, like all human institutions, is erratic, prone to falling well short of its stated principles. Mr. Ridley says the Covid pandemic has “thrown into sharp relief the disconnect between science as a philosophy and science as an institution.”

The Founders’ Plague—and Ours

Race, Partisanship, and Fake News at the Dawn of the Republic

By Stephen Fried, for Foreign Policy
The quick development of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has been one of the great triumphs in U.S. medical history. Nobody would have been more delighted to see it than the nation’s first great physician, the patriotic Philadelphian Benjamin Rush. A strong believer in inoculations to prevent smallpox, he pressed fellow delegates to the Second Continental Congress to get them. (Passing on the advice in late July 1776, John Adams assured Abigail that “Rush has as much success as any without Exception.”) And he convinced George Washington to have his troops vaccinated, the single most important medical decision affecting the outcome of the war. He would have been astounded at the science behind the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and ecstatic at their ability to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control. As for the rest of the U.S. response, however—the early fumbling, the political squabbling, the weaponized misinformation, the hecatombs of corpses—Rush would have found it crushingly familiar. Because it happened to him, too.

Chief of WhatsApp, which sued NSO over alleged hacking of its product, disputes firm’s denials on scope of, involvement in spyware operations

Messaging app leader says claims ‘don’t match all the facts’ its investigation unearthed

By Dana Priest and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Washington Post

The leader of the world’s most popular instant messaging app this week challenged the statements made by NSO Group’s chief executive in response to media reports that its military-grade software had been used to spy on journalists and human rights activists across the globe. WhatsApp chief executive Will Cathcart said the denials by Shalev Hulio “don’t all match the facts” that he said WhatsApp uncovered while investigating alleged hacking of its app in recent years by NSO’s Pegasus software. 

China Breached Dozens of Pipeline Companies in Past Decade, U.S. Says.

By Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger, New York Times. 

The Biden administration disclosed previously classified details on Tuesday about the breadth of state-sponsored cyberattacks on American oil and gas pipelines over the past decade, as part of a warning to pipeline owners to increase the security of their systems to stave off future attacks. From 2011 to 2013, Chinese-backed hackers targeted, and in many cases breached, nearly two dozen companies that own such pipelines, the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security revealed in an alert on Tuesday.

Prepare Now for War in the Pacific

The window to prepare for war in the western Pacific is closing quickly. The United States must build and prepare naval forces that can deter China, or defeat it if necessary.

By Congressman Michael Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), July 2021 Proceedings

When I served in the Marine Corps, I spent most of my time as far away from ships as possible in the middle of the Iraqi desert and as a Middle East expert. In what might have been the only successful pivot in recent U.S. foreign policy, since entering Congress, I have dedicated much of my focus to maritime security in the Indo-Pacific. Since coming to Congress, I have spent a good deal of time speaking and writing on naval topics. I’ve had the privilege of speaking to the Surface Navy Association, CSIS, and the Naval Institute, and writing for War On the Rocks, for example. 

Rep. Luria’s pro-Navy, centrist identity may get Jan. 6 test

By Will Weissert, Associated Press

When members of Congress head home to connect with their constituents, some hit tractor pulls. Others might stop by mom-and-pop stores. For Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, whose Virginia district includes the world’s largest naval base, a recent swing included boarding an amphibious assault ship for a NATO ceremony and a speech by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The congresswoman right here in front of me asks tough questions all the time, pins my ears against the wall on many, many topics,” Gen. Mark Milley told a recent audience of dignitaries aboard the USS Kearsarge, a reference to Luria’s grilling him on military readiness during committee meetings.

How to make the shift from tactician to strategic advisor

By Karen Vahouny, PR Daily

If your goal is to advise leaders and clients, become a CCO or agency head, mentor others and earn a higher salary, learn as much as you can about business and finance. Resist the urge to say, “I’m not good at numbers.” This is a lot like learning a new sport. You start with a genuine desire, some dedicated time to practice, and a goal to keep improving. The payoff for building your business and financial competence? You’ll develop more result-oriented communications and increase your value to your organization and clients. Not only that—you’ll have an even more successful career. Here are three things to consider as you start to build your business/finance IQ.

How Racist Is America?

By David Brooks, NYT 

One question lingers amid all the debates about critical race theory: How racist is this land? Anybody with eyes to see and ears to hear knows about the oppression of the Native Americans, about slavery and Jim Crow. But does that mean that America is even now a white supremacist nation, that whiteness is a cancer that leads to oppression for other groups? Or is racism mostly a part of America’s past, something we’ve largely overcome?
There are many ways to answer these questions. The most important is by having honest conversations with the people directly affected. But another is by asking: How high are the barriers to opportunity for different groups? Do different groups have a fair shot at the American dream? This approach isn’t perfect, but at least it points us to empirical data rather than just theory and supposition.

Enough is enough: WTOP’s GM addresses racist letter written to staffer

By Joel Oxley, WTOP

As I’m sure most people would assume, we get plenty of criticism at WTOP. Sometimes it’s constructive: We need to use better grammar; we need to add more details to our stories; or we made a mistake. Sometimes it’s about opinion: We are too left because we talk to liberals; or we are too right because we talk to conservatives. And that’s all OK. We’re not perfect. We strive to be accurate all the time. We aim to be unbiased. At WTOP, we are glad to get the feedback. It makes us better — negative, positive and in-between. Then there is the communication that really bothers me. The kind that is racist. The kind that gets my back up. Makes me angry. The kind that can’t go unaddressed. Take a look at this letter we received recently.

Americans don’t know how to talk about the military

Service members are seen as an abstract concept by civilians, but they don’t have to be.

By Joel Cuthberson, The War Horse

“I have a lot of family in the military,” I once told a friend. “Oh?” she responded. “I basically think all soldiers are murderers.” Not the best small talk I’d ever had. I let it pass as a punchline, a laughless one, and we remained pals. I’ve thought about this moment now and then during the past year, though. Police brutality turned a lot of folks into overnight activists last summer, and some adopted an attitude similar to my friend’s. The motto ACAB, “All cops are bastards,” was suddenly the talk of the suburbs.

CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Jul 24, 21] Episode 7…A Look Across the Pond at The Royal Navy’s Newest Carrier Class

By The Defense & Aerospace Report

Welcome to the CavasShips Podcast with Christopher P. Cavas and Chris Servello…a weekly podcast looking at naval and maritime events and issues of the day – in the US, across the seas and around the world. This week…a discussion with Richard Scott, one of Britain’s leading naval correspondents about the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, the first of which is now leading an international task group on a historic deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.
In this Week’s Squawk Chris Cavas talks about the goods and bads of locking in ship designs.

Senate panel votes to make women register for draft

By Rebecca Kheel, The Hill

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved language in its annual defense policy bill that would require women to register for the draft. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by the committee behind closed doors Wednesday “amends the Military Selective Service Act to require the registration of women for Selective Service,” according to a summary released Thursday. The United States has not instituted a draft since the Vietnam War, and Pentagon officials have repeatedly said they intend to keep the force all-volunteer.

MD, VA and D.C. must work together to deliver transportation solutions for the future

Opinion by Greg Slater, Maryland transportation secretary, The Washington Post

More than a half century ago, leaders across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. joined to lay a foundation for a transportation network to move people and goods across the region. Those leaders may not have envisioned the mega-region that exists today from Richmond to Baltimore, but their efforts launched an interstate highway and rail system that continues to serve as a catalyst for economic opportunity and a high quality of life for residents across all jurisdictions. Today, leaders in both states and D.C. have the responsibility to maintain, improve and invest in that regional network — and a historic opportunity to redefine it with innovation, technology, choice, equity and environmental awareness to serve our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the generations to come.

Opinion: Thank God for Ted Lasso, the man America needs right now

Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post

Thank God for “Ted Lasso.” When the Apple TV Plus comedy about an American college football coach moving to England to head a Premier League soccer team debuted last summer as the pandemic raged, it gave viewers the empathetic, uproarious company they badly needed. While that accident of timing certainly helped make “Ted Lasso” a cultural phenomenon, the specific nature of the show’s kindness is as important as its fundamental decency. Men in pop culture — and reality — just don’t seem to be doing very well right now.

A comprehensive look at likely changes in communications

We asked communicators in the 2021 Communications Benchmark Report what changes they anticipate will occur over the next three-to-five years. Turns out they were spot on, at least so far.

By Tony Silber, PR Daily

Sometimes it’s valuable to review priorities lists after they’re produced, to see how they stood the test of time, and whether predictions were borne out. In that spirit we took a look at the changes communicators anticipated for the year in Ragan’s 2021 Communications Benchmark Report. The report, based on a survey in January and February, details how communicators anticipated their work is likely to change over the next three-to-five years. 

Is the SI Swimsuit Issue Making Progress Toward Inclusivity?

By Nicole Schuman, PR News

This week Sports Illustrated released its 2021 Swimsuit Issue. While some may be surprised the publication still exists in the shadow of the #MeToo movement, SI is utilizing the platform to leverage a message of inclusivity. Its 2021 edition features the first cover with a transgender model, Leyna Bloom. Bloom sees the moment as another step toward greater acceptance of the transgender community. On Instagram she wrote: “This moment heals a lot of pain in the world. We deserve this moment…Many girls like us don’t have the chance to live our dreams, or to live long at all. 

Some players say Los Angeles Angels failing in treatment at minor league level, as GM vows to address it

By Joon Lee, ESPN

While consolidating the minor leagues during the 2020 season, Major League Baseball claimed that reducing and realigning its developmental leagues would increase player salaries at all levels, increase condition standards at ballparks and clubhouses, and create lower operating costs for teams. Some minor league players in the Los Angeles Angels organization say that is not happening for them. Kieran Lovegrove, an active pitcher for the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas, said he is living with six other teammates in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on a twin mattress, with one person sleeping in the kitchen and two others in the living room. 

How Katie Ledecky swims faster than the rest of the world

By Rick MaeseAshleigh JoplinArtur Galocha and Tyler Remmel

Five years removed from dominating the Olympic pool in Rio de Janeiro, Katie Ledecky is a different swimmer. She’s older and stronger, and she has used the time to fine-tune her mechanics, train her body, sculpt her physique and reconsider what’s possible.
Get the latest news and results from the Tokyo Olympics
She enters the Tokyo Games with enormous expectations, based on not just her accomplishments but all of the possibilities.
“Katie definitely has the potential to be better,” said Russell Mark, the high performance manager for USA Swimming. “She is a more thoughtful, more aware athlete right now, you know, in her early 20s and just more aware of her body, more aware technically, more aware in the weight room.”

The Tokyo Olympics Has Relaxed Its Rules On Athlete Protests — To A Point

By Laurel Wamsley, NPR

Protests by athletes have become common and more widely embraced in the last few years, and the Olympics has updated its rules to allow for it – within limits. The International Olympic Committee put out new guidelines this month about how athletes may “express their views.” According to the new rules, athletes can express them on the field of play before the start of competition or during the introduction of the athlete or team. That’s as long as the gesture is consistent with the principles of Olympism, isn’t targeted against “people, countries, [organizations] and/or their dignity,” and isn’t disruptive.