Scotland's Vote for Independence
Of all the many crises this summer - from ISIS to Ukraine, Ebola to Gaza - who'd have thought jolly old England would be on the list?
Technically, it’s the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But for how much longer?
Next week, after 307 years, the United Kingdom could break up and Scotland may vote for independence. The polls are too close to call – the latest putting those voting yes to independence at 49 percent and those voting no at 51 percent.
But decisions taken across the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland will echo far beyond the shores of a disunited kingdom. While Scotland makes up just 8 percent of the UK population – its gross domestic product of $235 million puts it just behind Connecticut ($240 million). It is also home to the 58 Trident nuclear missiles leased by Britain from the United States and the four nuclear submarines that carry them.
Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond – the man who has led the march to independence – has promised to kick out the nukes and the subs. And the consequences for Britain and NATO would be grave.
No other port in the UK is equipped to house the missiles, raising the potential prospect of Britain’s “independent” nuclear deterrent being based in France, or at the U.S. naval base at King’s Bay in Georgia, home to America’s own Trident submarines. And then there are questions over Britain’s place as one of the veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council – even the former UK Prime Minister John Major says its place on the Security Council “will no longer be viable.”
Scotland has set March 2016 as the date for independence.
Through her mother, Queen Elizabeth can trace her ancestry back to the legendary Scottish warrior, Robert the Bruce. Ironic that Britain’s most Scottish Queen ever might be the one to preside over the break-up of her United Kingdom.
American Tourist on Trial in North Korea
On Sunday, American tourist Matthew Miller will go on trial before North Korea’s Supreme Court.
Miller was arrested in April for allegedly tearing up his visa and seeking asylum.
A guilty verdict seems a forgone conclusion in Pyongyang. His punishment could range from deportation to a term in jail with hard labor.
Miller is one of three US citizens being held in North Korea. Kenneth Bae is serving a 15-year term for so-called “hostile acts” while another American, Jeffrey Fowle, is also awaiting trial after leaving a bible in his hotel.
All three have asked for the U.S. to have a high-ranking official negotiate directly for their release.
In 2009, Bill Clinton secured the release of a couple of jailed journalists. Jimmy Carter made the trip in 2010 to help free Aijalon Gomes, who had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor. But this time round, there doesn't appear to be too many volunteers. Miller, from California, told the AP his repeated pleas for help from the U.S. government have gone unanswered.
French President Faces Vote of No Confidence
France’s President François Hollande has already separated from a wife and a mistress – now he could be headed for divorce from many in his own party.
Hollande is the only world leader to have said he would join U.S. airstrikes in Syria. But right now he’s got problems closer to home.
On Tuesday, he faces a vote of no confidence in the Paris Parliament – and even some of his own Socialist deputies say they will abstain. Hollande is the most unpopular president since the Second World War.
France’s economy is stagnating as more than 3 million French are unemployed. Those who may abstain, known as the "frondeurs," are on the left of the party, and disagree with Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ market reforms.
Hollande’s Socialist Party has just a one seat majority in Parliament. If the vote of no confidence passes, it could force Hollande to call new elections.
UN General Assembly Opens
For the next two weeks, the world descends on New York.
The 69th UN General Assembly will open on Tuesday – heralding the season of Manhattan gridlock.
ISIS and the U.S. led fight to “roll back” the terrorist threat will be front and center of the UN’s agenda. And while most heads of state don’t roll into town until the following week, high-end stores, restaurants and hotels are already gearing up for their most profitable time of year.
Presidential suites at the city’s hotels are booked solid for global entourages – despite the fact that many of those visiting from the UN’s 193 member countries hail from impoverished countries whose citizens survive on less than $2 a day.
More than 100 world leaders will be in New York over the next two weeks, protected by hundreds of Diplomatic Security agents – including new Egyptian President Sisi. He’s no stranger to the United States from his time as head of Egypt’s military, but the UNGA marks his first visit as head of state.
Lady Gaga to Perform in Israel
She’s no stranger to controversy, but this weekend, Lady Gaga steps where many this summer have feared to tread – and in doing so, has got herself into rather deep international waters.
Lana de Ray, Neil Young, and the Backstreet Boys all canceled performances in Israel during the war in Gaza. But today, Gaga takes her artRAVE tour to Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park.
Last week, Gaga recorded a 10-second video promoting the concert, and wishing her Israeli fans “Shalom.” But it ignited a furious response online – with many accusing Gaga of a pro-Zionist agenda and others urging her to cancel.
But the show goes on – and it’s going to be a late night. The concert can’t start until after public transport resumes running at the end of Shabbat.
Gaga has already chalked up something no-one else can do: flying direct from Dubai to Israel, together with more than 100 performers and stagehands. It promises to be quite a night.