Weekly Update 22 July-1 Aug 21

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

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CDC urges vaccinated people in covid hot spots to resume wearing masks indoors

Citing new data showing vaccinated people can spread infections caused by delta variant, health officials also call for all teachers, staffers and students in schools to wear masks

By Yasmeen Abutaleb, Joel Achenbach, Dan Diamond and Adam Taylor, The Washington Post

Vaccinated people may be able to spread the coronavirus and should resume wearing masks under certain circumstances, the nation’s top public health official said Tuesday in a gloomy acknowledgment that the mutated delta variant has reversed the promising trend lines of spring. Speaking to reporters in an afternoon news briefing, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expressed disappointment and dismay that the summer surge in cases, driven by the delta variant’s startling transmissibility and low vaccination rates in many areas, had forced her agency’s hand. 

The CDC’s Delta Variant Panic

The agency spreads needless worry about vaccinations.

By The WSJ Editorial Board
As the coronavirus evolves, so does the science. The Delta variant is creating uncertainty about how much vaccines prevent transmission, but the overwhelming evidence shows they are highly protective against severe illness. Please get vaccinated if you aren’t already.
That should have been the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s straightforward message to Americans this week, along with a candid analysis of its evidence.
Instead, the CDC on Tuesday issued murky new guidance, without backup evidence, recommending that vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in some cases because unpublished studies suggest they could transmit the virus. But on Thursday the Washington Post ran an alarmist story on an internal CDC slide presentation with the unpublished evidence, which triggered a media panic that could undermine vaccinations. Only on Friday afternoon did the agency release some of its evidence and offer a calmer explanation.

New CDC indoor mask rule may threaten economic momentum and upend return-to-work plans

By David J. Lynch and Abha Bhattarai, The Washington Post

The federal government’s abrupt about-face on the need for indoor mask-wearing is clouding prospects for Americans to return to the office in large numbers, raising fears that the ultra-infectious delta variant could threaten the economic recovery. What just weeks ago seemed like a smooth return to pre-pandemic life suddenly felt shaky on Tuesday following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s call for vaccinated individuals to resume indoor mask-wearing in high-risk areas. The agency’s reversal of its May 13 decision to relax mask requirements was a reminder that — 16 months after the pandemic first torpedoed the U.S. economy — the crisis is not yet vanquished.

Online Schools Are Here to Stay, Even After the Pandemic

Some families have come to prefer stand-alone virtual schools and districts are rushing to accommodate them — though questions about remote learning persist.

By Natasha Singer, NYTimes

Rory Levin, a sixth grader in Bloomington, Minn., used to hate going to school. He has a health condition that often makes him feel apprehensive around other students. Taking special-education classes did little to ease his anxiety. So when his district created a stand-alone digital-only program, Bloomington Online School, last year for the pandemic, Rory opted to try it. Now the 11-year-old is enjoying school for the first time, said his mother, Lisa Levin. He loves the live video classes and has made friends with other online students, she said. In December, Bloomington Public Schools decided to keep running the online school even after the pandemic subsides. Ms. Levin plans to re-enroll Rory for this fall.

Kids Are Going Back to School. How Do We Keep Them Safe?

As the Delta variant rages, parents remain confused about how their children can safely return to classrooms in the midst of a pandemic. Here are answers to common questions.

By Tara Parker-Pope, NYTimes

As the Delta variant rages and vaccination rates remain low in many parts of the United States, worried parents have one pressing question: How do I send my child back to school safely during a pandemic? Next week, a number of school districts in the South where case counts for Covid-19 are on the rise, including several in Alabama and Georgia, will begin the 2021-22 school year. Even more schools in Covid hot spots around the country, including districts in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, will welcome students the following week.

From ports to rail yards, global supply lines struggle amid virus outbreaks in the developing world

Some back-to-school products could be hard to find for American consumers in the coming weeks

By David J. Lynch, The Washington Post

Fresh coronavirus outbreaks are forcing factory shutdowns in countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh, aggravating supply chain disruptions that could leave some U.S. retailers with empty shelves as consumers begin their back-to-school shopping. The overseas work stoppages are just the latest twist in almost 18 months of pandemic-related manufacturing and transportation woes. The new infections come as two of the largest U.S. railroads last week restricted shipments from West Coast seaports to Chicago, where a surge of shipping containers has clogged rail yards. 

When We Return to the Office, Internal Communication will Rise Again

By Stacy Adams, PR News

In spite of potential delays owing to the Delta variant’s rise, a return to the office (RTO) will come. Slightly more than half (52 percent) of C-suites advocate employees work in the office four or more days per week, a McKinsey survey of 500+ senior executives in 8 industries says. As was the case during much of the pandemic, internal communicators again will be center stage. As they did prior to the pandemic, they now will need to focus on engaging employees as staff transition away from WFH. Done well, RTO can be harmonious, with clear expectations about timelines and available resources. 

A 2nd New Nuclear Missile Base for China, and Many Questions About Strategy

Is China scrapping its “minimum deterrent” strategy and joining an arms race? Or is it looking to create a negotiating card, in case it is drawn into arms control negotiations?

By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, The New York Times

In the barren desert 1,200 miles west of Beijing, the Chinese government is digging a new field of what appears to be 110 silos for launching nuclear missiles. It is the second such field discovered by analysts studying commercial satellite images in recent weeks. It may signify a vast expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal — the cravings of an economic and technological superpower to show that, after decades of restraint, it is ready to wield an arsenal the size of Washington’s, or Moscow’s. Or, it may simply be a creative, if costly, negotiating ploy.

Rivalry Without Racism

Can America Compete With China and Avoid Fueling Anti-Asian Hate?

By Russell Jeung and Jessica J. Lee, for Foreign Affairs
On May 14, a stranger approached an Asian American woman outside a grocery store in Berkeley, California. “Fuck you, CCP!” the man shouted, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. “It’s your fault for bringing the virus here; go back to your country!” Weeks later, a Vietnamese American woman was placing groceries in her car in Phoenix, Arizona, when two passersby threw her grocery bags on the ground while yelling, “Stupid fucking Chink!” and told her to go back to China.
These two incidents, documented by the discrimination-reporting center Stop AAPI Hate (a group that one of us, Russell Jeung, co-founded), are far from isolated events. Amid a global pandemic with roots in China, a long-running bilateral trade war, and U.S. sanctions targeting Chinese officials involved in human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Beijing has emerged as Washington’s primary geopolitical target—and Asian Americans are getting caught in the crossfire.

Our democracy is under attack. Washington journalists must stop covering it like politics as usual.

By Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post

Back in the dark ages of 2012, two think-tank scholars, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, wrote a book titled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” about the rise of Republican Party extremism and its dire effect on American democracy. In a related op-ed piece, these writers made a damning statement about Washington press coverage, which treats the two parties as roughly equal and everything they do as deserving of similar coverage.

Disinformation for Hire, a Shadow Industry, Is Quietly Booming

Back-alley firms meddle in elections and promote falsehoods on behalf of clients who can claim deniability, escalating our era of unreality.

By Max Fisher, The New York Times

In May, several French and German social media influencers received a strange proposal. A London-based public relations agency wanted to pay them to promote messages on behalf of a client. A polished three-page document detailed what to say and on which platforms to say it. But it asked the influencers to push not beauty products or vacation packages, as is typical, but falsehoods tarring Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine. Stranger still, the agency, Fazze, claimed a London address where there is no evidence any such company exists.

What if There Wasn’t a Coup Plot, General Milley?

By Christopher Caldwell, for NYT
Since the Sixties” and “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West.”

This month, the first crop of books about the end of Donald Trump’s administration has prompted speculation: Was the president plotting to remain in power through some kind of coup?
The question has arisen because the Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker report in their book “I Alone Can Fix It” that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saw the president’s postelection maneuverings in that light.

How to turn one media placement into multiple

Breaking through with earned media should just be the start of your campaign. 

By Tori Simmons, PR Daily

While we all might be tired of hearing how COVID-19 has drastically changed everything, we can’t ignore the fact that it has upended the media landscape, making it more difficult to land placements. In fact, 60% of public relations professionals admit that media relations is harder now than it was in 2019. Given that the landscape is crowded and difficult to penetrate, when you do place your client in the media, it feels that much sweeter. But rather than just resting on your laurels after finally landing a placement for your brand or client, why not turn that one opportunity into multiple? Media begets more media, but you’re missing out on viable opportunities to easily convert one placement into another if you aren’t proactively seeking them out.

A No-Jerks Policy Ignited Morale at the Company Behind Yankee Candle

When Ravi Saligram took over Newell Brands, employees told him of a toxic workplace culture. ‘If they pushed back on something, they would get fired on the spot.’

By Sharon Terlep, WSJ

Soon after Ravi Saligram took charge of the company that makes Sharpie markers and Graco strollers, he offered his new workforce a blunt message: “no assholes,” read a slide shown to about 30,000 employees around the world. It was 2019, and Newell Brands Inc. was debt-laden, losing sales and struggling through yet another restructuring. In a town-hall style meeting at the company’s Atlanta headquarters, he laid out his management philosophy. It was typical fare until Mr. Saligram, the former CEO of OfficeMax and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Inc., flipped to a bullet-point list of his key tenets—starting with his PG-13 edict.

‘It Failed Miserably’: After Wargaming Loss, Joint Chiefs Are Overhauling How the US Military Will Fight

By Tara Copp, Defense One

A brutal loss in a wargaming exercise last October convinced the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Hyten to scrap the joint warfighting concept that had guided U.S. military operations for decades. “Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably. An aggressive red team that had been studying the United States for the last 20 years just ran rings around us. They knew exactly what we’re going to do before we did it,” Hyten told an audience Monday at the launch of the Emerging Technologies Institute, an effort by the National Defense Industrial Association industry group to speed military modernization. 

Russia’s New Form of Organized Crime Is Menacing the World

By The NYT Editorial Board
The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

The screen goes blank.
A message appears in crude, Google Translate English, advising that all your files have been encrypted — rendered unusable — and can be restored only if you pay a ransom.
After some back and forth, you pay out in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency, most likely to a Russian-based gang. There’s no choice: It’s cheaper and far quicker to pay up than to rebuild a computer system from scratch. To avoid further trouble or embarrassment, many victims don’t even notify the police.

Biden Issues National Security Memorandum On Critical Infrastructure

By Brad Williams, Breaking Defense

President Joe Biden today issued a national security memorandum on improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity, with the goal of encouraging critical infrastructure owners and operators to voluntarily adopt better cybersecurity standards. The memorandum is intended to address what a senior administration official described Tuesday evening as the nation’s “woefully insufficient” cybersecurity posture; it also comes less than 24 hours after Biden stated that a cyberattack could someday lead to a “real shooting war.” 

Why Millennials and Gen Z Aren’t Proud to Be American

By Jacob Jarvis, Newsweek

Are you proud to be American? It’s a seemingly simple question, but also a loaded one. And myriad factors could impact the answer—including how old the person being asked is. Polling shows there’s a patriotism gap between older and younger Americans; generation Z and Millennials are less likely to say yes to the question of national pride than those born in the decades preceding them. Sixty-seven percent of 1,424 U.S. adults in I&I/TIPP polling said they were extremely or very proud to be American when asked between June 30 and July 2, during the build-up to Independence Day.

Working 9-To-5 Is An Antiquated Relic From The Past And Should Be Stopped Right Now

By Jack Kelly, Forbes

Nothing gives you better clarity than a near-death experience. It awakens you to the frailty of life and the importance of living with purpose and meaning. The pandemic has been a wake-up call. It has shaken us out of our complacency. We have started seriously looking into the way we lead our lives. Many of us have decided that our jobs were dead ends, and quit in the “Great Resignation” wave. This mass exodus shows that people no longer want to waste their lives doing work that they don’t like and will search for better opportunities that offer growth and a future.

USA’s Leading Public Affairs, Policy & Administration Programs 2021

By Newsweek Educational Insight Team, Newsweek

If you are considering going into the field of Public Affairs as your career choice, you will need to be an individual who has a fascination with the science of how information is propagated once it has left the issuer, as well as someone who is motivated by, and can advocate effectively and articulately for, a cause. We live in a society where we are bombarded with information from every conceivable angle – websites, tv, radio, social media, print media, the list goes on. For any entity with a message to communicate, it can be incredibly hard to cut through the noise, reach the target audience and resonate with them.

Opinion: I was skeptical of the Tokyo Olympics. Then they won me over.

Opinion by John Feinstein, for The Washington Post
There are all sorts of reasons the Tokyo Olympics should have been canceled — most notably the fact that much of Japan is in a state of emergency because of covid-19. The national number of new daily cases just passed 10,000 for the first time, and on Wednesday, Tokyo registered 3,177 cases — its own daily record. There’s the corruption of the International Olympic Committee, which predates the pandemic but feels more blatant amid the covid nightmare. The Games were delayed last year because of covid precautions. This summer, with the risk more severe, the IOC insisted on holding the Games for one reason: money. NBC wants to make up the billions it paid the IOC for TV rights (which it gets from the never-ending commercials everyone must endure to watch the Games).

The Capital Gazette Found Justice. But Can the Newspaper Survive?

By Rick Hutzell, former editor of Capital Gazette, special for Time Magazine

I sat 10 feet behind the man who plotted to murder me. It was the final day of his sanity trial, giving a jury power to decide if he understood what he was doing three years ago when he shattered the illusion of safety created by the glass doors of our Annapolis newsroom. Among the evidence were two years spent stockpiling weapons, identifying targets while sitting in the office parking lot with a camera, statements that he hoped to appear insane, letters taking responsibility for his attack and a revelation that after murdering four people, he put down his shotgun to surrender. Then he spotted a survivor under a desk, picked up the weapon and obliterated one more life.