AGE OF AQUARIUS: A NEW MIGRANT DRAMA DAWNS FOR EUROPE

Last week, the Italian government closed its ports to a ship carrying hundreds of migrants and refugees — including women and unaccompanied children — from North Africa. After a few days in limbo, Madrid signaled that the boat, named the Aquarius, could dock in Spain. Fellow Signalista Willis Sparksdrops in to guide you through the various facets of this complex story:


The man in Rome who decided to stop the ship is Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing Lega party, which now governs the country alongside the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. As part of that coalition, Salvini, who won millions of votes by pledging to deport hundreds of thousands of people, is Italy’s Interior Minister.

Let’s look at Salvini’s decision from both sides:

Argument 1: shut our doors

  • Italy has already accepted hundreds of thousands of migrants and isn’t getting enough support from the EU to manage the strain. Leaving aside Spain’s help in this case, Italian officials say Spain and France have done little else. Germany, Sweden and others have taken many migrants, but other EU states — particularly in Eastern Europe, won’t take any.
  • Accepting boatloads of migrants encourages others to risk their lives to reach Europe, exacerbating political problems and creating more humanitarian emergencies at sea.
  • Accepting migrants makes “people smuggling” a profitable business.

Argument 2: open our arms

  • Migrants are human beings, and they deserve our help.
  • Many of these migrants are endangered children who didn’t choose to take the perilous sea voyage themselves.
  • Under international law, ships at sea must help any vessels in distress. The country responsible for operations in that area has first responsibility for rescue. The law makes clear that governments don’t get to decide which drowning people to save and which to simply leave offshore.

Although the flow of Middle Eastern and North African migrants by land into Europe has fallen significantly since reaching one million people in 2015 — the Balkans have thrown up barriers, while the EU agreed to help Turkey house and feed migrants who’d otherwise head onwards to Europe — Italy continues to face boatloads of desperate people arriving by sea routes from North Africa.

While Spain stepped in this time around, it won’t be long before another boat arrives at Italy’s increasingly unwelcoming shores and a crisis starts anew.

Technology has played a big role in accelerating globalization. While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe that technology should respect and even help protect the world's timeless values. That conviction has led us to announce a new and fourth pillar to Microsoft's AI for Good portfolio – our $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society's biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage. Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

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This Saturday, July 20, will mark the 50-year anniversary of the day a human being first stepped onto another world. A moment born out of Cold War political pressures, it's easy to forget a half century later how much bitter controversy the project provoked at home and the intensity of the worldwide fanfare that followed its success.

The moon mission's primary purpose was to defeat the Soviet Union. By the time John Kennedy became president in 1961, the Soviet Union had advanced far ahead of the United States in the race for achievement in space. In October 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. A month later, a dog named Laika became the first living creature to travel beyond Earth's atmosphere. In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, the first human to do so.

In early May, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, spurring Kennedy to announce a far more ambitious plan. On May 25, Kennedy famously pledged that by the end of the decade Americans would go to the moon and return safely to the Earth.

Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, but new President Lyndon Johnson quickly signaled his intention to see the promise kept. The Soviets held their space lead through 1965, by landing an unmanned craft on the Moon.

The moon mission stoked controversy in the United States. A review of polls reveals that only in 1969 did a majority of Americans support the project. Many people argued that the billions spent on a moonshot should go toward the war in Vietnam or to fight poverty in America's inner cities. "No hot water, no toilets, no lights. But Whitey's on the moon," sang musician and activist Gil Scott Heron. It didn't help when a fire during the Apollo 1 mission killed three astronauts and destroyed their space module.

But when Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, the event took on a life of its own. It was a decade framed by two images of respected TV anchorman Walter Cronkite—shaken to the core on air by the 1963 murder of President Kennedy and then speechless with awe as Americans bounded across the surface of the moon.

A decade that included confrontation with the Soviets in Cuba, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, a failing war in Vietnam, race riots in American cities, and violent chaos at the 1968 Democratic Party convention ended with an accomplishment a quarter million miles away, that was watched live by 94 percent of Americans who owned a TV.

Americans weren't the only ones watching. About 650 million people around the world watched the moon landing live on TV, making the event the first truly global televised event. Nine weeks later, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins began a world tour.

Concerns that planting an American flag on the moon's surface would seem an act of obnoxious nationalism faded as the three men were greeted by overflow crowds in 27 cities in 24 countries over 39 days. An estimated one million people greeted them in Dhaka (then Pakistan) and some 1.5 million turned out in Mumbai (then Bombay).

Fifty years later, moon missions are still a mark of national prestige. Russia, China, India, the EU, Japan, and Israel have all sent probes to orbit the Moon or landed vehicles on its surface. But none of them matches that first "giant leap for mankind."

Next up: Mars? For thoughts on the next space race, click here.

Bonus fact: An iPhone has more than 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.