TikTok, Spain’s Monarchy, Turkey: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering Microsoft’s potential purchase of part of TikTok, worries in NATO over Turkey’s aggression, and the decision by Spain’s former king to quit the country.

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ImagePresident Trump reversed course after threatening to ban the app entirely from the United States.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Microsoft gets green light to buy part of TikTok

President Trump gave the go-ahead on Monday for Microsoft to pursue a potential acquisition of the Chinese-owned video app’s operations in the U.S. TikTok will shut down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or another company buys it, he said on Monday.

It was a retreat from the president’s earlier threats to ban TikTok, an app that has come under scrutiny after lawmakers argued it could pose a national security threat.

What’s next: In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft said it would finish discussions with TikTok’s parent company, the Chinese social media giant ByteDance, by Sept. 15. The talks could result in the purchase of the service in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, though discussions were still “preliminary.”

Tech on notice: Executives at TikTok have insisted that it does not take direction from ByteDance. From the start, TikTok was made unavailable in China so that users wouldn’t be subject to the Communist Party’s censorship requirements, and their data was stored in Virginia and Singapore.

But suspicion never dissipated that TikTok might give into pressure from Beijing. TikTok’s sudden change of fortunes might cause other Chinese tech companies to re-evaluate their own international ambitions.

Related: A tide of Chinese scholars have turned against Western-inspired ideas that once flowed in China’s universities, instead promoting the proudly authoritarian worldview ascendant under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party leader.


Credit…Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Turkey’s aggression worries some in NATO

Turkey — increasingly assertive, ambitious and authoritarian — has become “the elephant in the room” for NATO, European diplomats say.

Despite being a NATO member, the country has bought a Russian air defense system, and its energy ambitions and a recent push into Libya nearly led to armed conflicts with France and Greece.

But alliance officials suggest it could be too big, powerful and strategically important to allow an open confrontation, our diplomatic correspondent writes.

Turkey has dismissed criticism of its behavior as unjustified. But some NATO ambassadors believe the country is challenging the organization’s democratic values and its collective defense.

Details: Turkey is at odds with its Western allies over Libya, Syria, Iraq and Russia, as well as the energy resources of the eastern Mediterranean. The strongman rule of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has also unsettled other NATO members. Without consistent U.S. leadership, analysts say that Turkey is getting a kind of free pass.


Credit…Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA, via Shutterstock

Spain’s former king quits the country

The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos, said on Monday that he was abandoning his country amid multiple financial inquiries, including a money laundering and tax evasion investigation.

In a letter addressed to King Felipe VI, his son and Spain’s current monarch, Juan Carlos said his decision to leave was taken “with the same eagerness to serve Spain that inspired my reign.”

Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 amid health problems and scandals that were undermining the reputation of Spain’s monarchy. His legal problems have continued, and his departure may fuel Spain’s political and social debate over the monarchy’s future.

Response: Spain’s left-wing deputy prime minister, Pablo Iglesias, said Juan Carlos’s decision to leave was a “flight abroad,” which he called “unworthy of a former head of state.” The government said on Monday that it respected his decision. But the monarchy is a point of divergence between the two parties that formed Spain’s first coalition government in January.

In other news:

If you have 7 minutes, this is worth it

Spearfishing washes pandemic anxiety away


Credit…Michaela Skovranova for The New York Times

Spear gear has been selling out at dive shops up and down the east coast of Australia since March, when the country began locking down because of the coronavirus outbreak.

To understand why, our Sydney bureau chief slipped on some fins and took to the water. He found that “spearfishing has become an increasingly popular escape for people seeking calm, control and sustenance far from the anxieties of land.” The “spearos,” as they are called, “all find something for their stomachs and souls in an act that is ancient and elemental.”

Here’s what else is happening

Poland: The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the results of President Andrzej Duda’s narrow victory in elections last month, clearing the path for the country’s conservative Law and Justice party to continue in power.

Pakistan media: The recent abduction of a prominent journalist, Matiullah Jan, by state security officers has renewed concerns about press freedom. Two years into Prime Minister Imran Khan’s term, journalists and activists say censorship is on the rise.

In memoriam: John Hume, a moderate Roman Catholic politician who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dogged and ultimately successful campaign to end decades of bloodshed in his native Northern Ireland, died on Monday. He was 83.


Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Snapshot: Above, Tropical Storm Isaias churning off the Florida coast. Forecasters said the storm, which hit hurricane strength on Monday, would make landfall near the Carolinas. Flash floods, storm surges and even tornadoes are possible.

What we’re reading: This article in GQ on the power of the Sultans. “This story about the country’s best wedding band is what we need right now,” writes Matt Apuzzo, our reporter based in Brussels.

Now, a break from the news


Credit…Craig Lee for The New York Times

Cook: This poundcake is nothing fancy, but the result is equally befitting a school bake sale or a fancy dinner party.

Read: Stephenie Meyer’s retelling of “Twilight,” Isabel Wilkerson’s examination of American racism, a biography of the drug kingpin El Chapo — here are 13 books to watch for in August.

Do: For many of us, 2020 will not be known for road trips, amusement parks or lakeside retreats. But families are finding small yet meaningful ways to escape, have fun during staycations and experience something new.

At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

And now for the Back Story on …

The next best thing to traveling

When travel restrictions began to lock people in place all around the world, our editors on the Travel desk began a new visual series called The World Through a Lens. The idea was to showcase beautiful and intriguing places, and to introduce readers to aspects of global culture. Here’s an excerpt from what the editors told Times Insider about the project.

Our goal with this series is slightly different from that of our typical Travel fare. Instead of inspiring travel among our readers or describing the travels of our contributors, we’re aiming to approximate elements of travel itself — to provide a kind of virtual travel substitute that soothes, transports and distracts.


Credit…Caleb Kenna

But escapism isn’t the only objective. At its best, travel can transform us: It can awaken us to the restorative power of nature; it can broaden our ability to understand and appreciate dissimilar cultures; it can help us become more empathetic to people whose lives fall outside the scope of our day-to-day routines. These, too, are things we hope the series can provide, especially at a time when such transformations aren’t available to many of us via direct experience.

To achieve all of that, we’ve tried to create immersive visual experiences; every story in the series is driven by images. (Instead of assigning photographers to shoot new work, we are relying on photojournalists with previously shot, and unpublished, portfolios.)

We’ve also tried to create a more intuitive and symbiotic relationship between images and text. (In most cases, the journalist who took the pictures is also the one who wrote the copy.) And as a general rule, we’ve avoided “service” information: no hotel plugs or restaurant reviews, no recommended itineraries. The focus is on the people and the places themselves, as seen and captured by some of the best photojournalists in the world.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Isabella

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about inequalities in the use of facial-recognition technology as a crime-solving tool.
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