TURKEY BETWEEN EMERGENCY LAW AND SON-IN-LAW

On Thursday, the Turkish government lifted a state of emergency that has been in force for two years. First imposed after a failed coup against President Erdogan’s government back in 2016, the measure has facilitated the arrest or purge of roughly a quarter of a million state officials.


But if Erdogan is comfortable letting the emergency law go, it’s because conventional laws now give him all the clout he needs. Having narrowly won re-election last month, he takes office with vastly expanded new powers to appoint officials in the government, judiciary, military, central bank, universities, and even at the local level, all with little parliamentary oversight. A tough new anti-terrorism law will grant him additional tools to silence or sideline his opponents.

One of Erdogan’s first moves after being sworn in for his second term was to put his 40-year-old son-in-law Berat Albayrak in charge as treasury and finance minister, a position of immense influence over Turkey’s economy.

There are two big questions surrounding Albayrak. First, although he has a background in business and an MBA from a US university, there’s little to suggest that he’ll push back against his headstrong father-in-law’s increasingly ruinous economic policy. To keep his base happy, Erdogan has flooded the country with government cash and kept interest rates artificially low. While that approach worked for a time, international investors whose support helps to keep the debt-ridden economy afloat are increasingly spooked. With crucial municipal elections set for next spring, it’s hard to see Erdogan changing course, and even harder to see Albayrak pushing back – his appointment alone caused the lira to shed 3.5% of its value against the dollar, its biggest one-day slide in two years.

The second question is a broader one: is Erdogan, who has elevated Albayrak with stunning speed over the past several years, grooming a successor? One of the challenges of strongman politics, after all, is that after concentrating so much power in the presidency, you want to be sure that the next guy doesn’t turn around and use it against you. (In 1999, for example, a sickly Boris Yeltsin shrewdly entrusted the vast legal powers of his office to a young ex-spy known for his loyalty, if not for his scruples.) While the 64-year-old Erdogan can still legally serve at least 10 more years, it’s never too early for the aging authoritarian retirement plan to kick in.

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.