Watching/Ignoring

​​​​​​WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

China’s Secret Weapons — US chipmaker Qualcomm abandoned a $44 billion deal to buy Dutch counterpart NXP on Wednesday after a deadline passed with no word from China’s antitrust regulators. Beijing’s approval was the only obstacle holding up the merger. The White House had lobbied hard for this deal, and President Trump spent plenty of political capital bailing out ZTE, a Chinese tech giant pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by US penalties. The saga is another reminder that the US-China trade war isn’t just about tariffs, and that both countries have many weapons at their disposal. The risk of escalation has just gone up.


Zimbabwe’s Election — Since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has never had an election without Robert Mugabe. That streak will end on Monday. And this will be a vote worth watching. All political parties have been able to hold rallies without police interference, and US an European election observers have been welcomed for the first time in 16 years. In addition, Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission says its new fingerprint ID system will help prevent the cheating that has marred past elections.

US politics adrift — A vandal attacked Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a pickaxe this week, and someone reportedly boarded and set adrift a $40 million 163-foot yacht owned by Trump administration official Betsy DeVos. Some will find these stories funny. Others, like your Friday author, believe there are 100,000 legitimate forms of protest, and vandalism is not one of them. It’s also the last thing the current US political climate needs.

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

Steve Bannon — First came news the most overrated man in Washington was headed to Europe to launch a pan-European far-right political movement. Because Europeans who win votes with anti-American rhetoric badly need American help. Then came word that Bannon is in regular contact with former UK foreign minister and political bad boy Boris Johnson. Add Nigel Farage, and we’ll have that scene at the end of the film This Is Spinal Tap where the washed-up metal band reunites for a tour of Japan.

Zuckerberg’s Taste in Art — Facebook is having an awful week, but here’s yet another reason why it’s hard to sympathize. The Flemish tourist board accused Facebook this week of censoring a number of posts featuring paintings by Flemish masters—apparently because they included nudity. Let’s be crystal clear: Your Friday author is no fan of all those pudgy little cherubs Rubens has inflicted on us, but Zuckerberg better not be messing with Breughel the Elder.

Putin’s Inflatable Trojan Horse? — A soccer ball Vladimir Putin gave Donald Trump during their Helsinki summit reportedly contains a chip that can transmit information to nearby cell phones. (For the record, this is not satire). We’re ignoring this story because Trump’s well-known aversion to sports that provoke perspiration suggests Russian intelligence is much more likely to learn what 12 year-old Barron Trump wants for dinner than any presidential secrets.

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.