What We're Watching: Sudan's Generals and Northern Ireland

Sudan's Continuing Strife – The protesters weren't satisfied when Sudan's military ousted Omar Bashir after 30 years in power. Or when Bashir found himself behind bars. Nor did they return home when the generals promised a "military council" that would forge a path to civilian rule within two years. The protesters want a civilian government led by the political opposition, and they want it right now. The military has been reluctant to clear the streets, but something's got to give. This story is no longer about the fate of Bashir but the (immediate) future of Sudan.

Northern Ireland – When a masked gunman, still at large, shot and killed journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland last week, it was a reminder of how fragile the peace that has prevailed there since the Good Friday agreement 21 years ago really is. It also gives grim weight to one of the most difficult Brexit questions: If a hard border must be restored between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in order to separate the EU from the UK, might we see a return to the violence of decades past? At a time when a new generation too young to remember the Troubles or the peace agreement that ended them is becoming more active in the life of Northern Ireland, the answers to more immediate questions will offer some clues: Will the community help police find the gunman? And how will the public respond when an arrest is made?

What We're Ignoring: Yellow Vests Complaining About Notre Dame and Libertarians in Hot Water

The latest yellow vest protests – A fresh round of gilets jaunes demonstrations in Paris over the weekend featured signs like "Millions for Notre Dame, what about for us, the poor?" and "Everything for Notre Dame, nothing for Les Misérables." Members of the crowd were voicing frustration that fundraising efforts to restore Paris's partially destroyed Notre-Dame cathedral have raised over $1 billion, while their concerns have yet to be fully addressed. We're ignoring these new complaints, because French President Emmanuel Macron has already announced 10 billion euros of budget giveaways to assuage the yellow vests, and because we suspect the broader French public doesn't see support for a cultural treasure and support for the downtrodden as a zero-sum game.

Seasteaders abandoning ship – An American Bitcoin enthusiast and his girlfriend have scarpered from their home on a floating platform off the coast of Thailand after the country accused the pair of violating Thailand's national sovereignty – a crime that can lead to the death penalty. Michigan native Chad Elwartowski and his Thai companion had appeared in a video touting the virtues of "seasteading" – a movement championed by Silicon Valley types who dream of setting up sovereign floating communities where people can live free from government interference. The Thai navy ignored Elwartowski's protests that his home was located in international waters and dismantled the custom-built rig. We are ignoring seasteading, because this story shows how utopian fantasies are no match for an actual navy.

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.