Monday Sunrise Briefing: A new era in collaborative spaceflight

NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft lands off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, August 2, 2020, with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard.

Two American astronauts returned to Earth Sunday in a déjà vu splashdown, the first in 45 years. This SpaceX-NASA mission marks the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit. It’s another historic milestone on the road to a private-government space partnership. “We are entering a new era of human spaceflight, where NASA is no longer the purchaser, owner, and operator of all the hardware - we’re going to be a customer,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, “Driving down costs and increasing access to space.’

The promise is that space flight becomes like airline travel with regular commercial trips to low-earth orbit for tourists, corporate research, and satellite repairs. And the success of Sunday’s mission is considered a foundational step toward sustainable Moon missions, and eventually human flights to Mars. To underscore the point, after the “Space Dads” Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken returned, they were greeted by mission control: “Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. “

2. Teen videos and the US-China relations. TikTok, a Chinese-owned video app that’s wildly popular among U.S. teenagers, emerged this weekend as  the perfect fall guy for President Trump’s anti-China campaign. On Friday, President Trump threatened to ban it. On Sunday, top White House officials took to the airwaves to underscore security concerns. Now, Microsoft is seeking to buy the the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand branch of TikTok. The stated concern is that the video app represents a security leak. Chinese companies are “feeding data [about Americans] directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday. TikTok denies such claims noting that all U.S. user data is on servers operating on U.S. soil. “Now unfavorable views toward China are at an all-time high because of COVID-19. So when you combine the geopolitical realities with the domestic politics, it makes perfect sense for the president to continue ratcheting up the rhetoric and making moves to confront China head-on,” Cliff Sims, a former Trump White House aide told the Washington Post.

Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP
Surfers in Delray Beach enjoy the waves, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, as Tropical Storm Isaias brushes Florida. The storm is forecast to dump heavy rain as it moves up the East Coast Monday and Tuesday.

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, sunrise briefing.

Here are two news events from this past weekend (while you may have been listening to Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” album, paddle boarding, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

Look Ahead

Tuesday, Aug. 4

Local democracy at work. Voters in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will go to the polls to elect state and local leaders. Tennessee votes on Thursday and Hawaii casts ballots on Friday. 

Wednesday, Aug. 5

Policing re-envisioned. The Minneapolis City Council plans to vote on final plans to dismantle the city police.

Remembering the A-bomb. Hiroshima, Japan, marks the 75th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack with a ceremony at a peace park. The bomb killed 140,000 people. A second bomb in Nagasaki killed another 70,000, before Japan’s surrender ended World War II.

Friday, Aug. 7

Freedom or reckless rally? Bikers are expected to arrive in South Dakota for the 80th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Organizers expect attendance to be down by half, but expect at least 250,000 people at the 10-day rally, which would make it the biggest event since the pandemic started.

Justice delayed. More than 15 years after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a U.N. tribunal is set to announce its verdict. The court is expected to sentence members of the Shiite group Hezbollah, but none are in custody.

Saturday, Aug. 8

Last call for U.S. small businesses.  Today is the final deadline to apply for a business loan or grant through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. There’s still about $130 billion left. Any unspent money goes back to the U.S. Treasury. Congress has proposed extending the plan but has not reached a deal. 

Sunday, Aug. 9 

Choosing a leader. Belarus prepares to stage its presidential election on Sunday, with President Alexander Lukashenko seeking a sixth term in office.

Generosity Watch

Friendship Donation Network
The Friendship Donation Network (FDN) of Ithaca, N.Y., collects food from farms and grocery stories are redistributes it to the needy.

Imagine you’re a fifth grader and you’'ve been planning all year to take a trip to the Seabreeze Amusement Park near Rochester, New York. You and your parents raised $2,400 for the big outing. But then COVID-19 shut down your school - and the amusement park. 

To say the students were disappointed might be an understatement. But they rallied. And in the spirit of giving that has characterized a year of acts of service, the parents and fifth graders of Northeast Elementary School in Ithaca, N.Y. decided to donate their Seabreeze money to some worthy causes. 

It was an abbreviated year of “learning and listening,” Elizabeth Coyle, their school principal says via email. And she saw the fifth graders' sense of leadership and responsibility” grow throughout the school year.

Among the 5th graders' various service acts was organizing a food drive for the Friendship Donations Network (FDN), a nonprofit that collects food that would otherwise be thrown away from grocery stores and farms and redistributes it to those in need. FDN was among three local charities the students voted to give their $2,400 to when the trip was canceled. The other two were the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County and the Tompkins County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

When he got the check from the 5th graders, FDN treasurer Mike Charnoky was surprised and touched by their generosity. “When I saw the envelope, I saw it was from the 5th grade class," Mr. Charnoky told the Ithaca Journal. "I thought, 'That's different.' I saw the details of the donation and it just broke my heart."

Mr. Charnoky also noted that generosity has flourished during the pandemic. He said FDN has received more monetary donations over the past several months than during the same period in previous years. 

Hidden gem

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

Pandemic pen pals: How Colombian libraries lift spirits

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about one of the pivotal political battles in American history, a battle for the soul of American democracy: the fight for women's right to vote. 

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday's subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. The election is in 94 days. Will the results be seen as legitimate?
  2. Teachers unions demand their say as schools debate reopening
  3. Hajj without the crowds: How pilgrims are persevering
  4. Bringing light to the news, for those who can’t hear it (video)
  5. Can roadsides offer a beeline for pollinators?

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