Monday, September 29, 2014

Hong Kong faces uncertain future as protests grow

Thousands have filled the streets of Hong Kong in the past few days calling for true democracy in the run up to 2017 elections in the Special Administrative Region.

But their calls have been largely ignored by both Beijing and the Hong Kong governments. Beijing has called the protests illegal, and stirred up by hostile western forces. Meanwhile authorities in Hong Kong have struggled in how they might respond to the protests which have swelled, drawing tens of thousands onto the streets.

Largely peaceful 

The Occupy Central protests have been largely peaceful, but tensions boiled over late Sunday evening local time with police firing volleys of tear gas into the crowd.

Such displays of force, especially on a peaceful group of demonstrators, is relatively unprecedented. Tear gas has only been used in Hong Kong once in the last decade under Chinese rule, but is was also used under British colonial rule during the 1967 riots.

Its use has been criticised by the protesters and some western media outlets, especially given the mostly peaceful nature of the demonstrations. However Chinese media has said the police have shown "restraint" in the face of "illegal" demonstrations aimed at bringing chaos and which "ruin the image of Hong Kong" [Global Times / Xinhua / Global Times / BBC]. China has also ramped up censorship on the Internet [CNN]. Meanwhile Western media has largely remained neutral or sided with the protesters.

Media coverage

As regarding the level of reportage, the protests have been ignored to a great extent both inside mainland China and outside Hong Kong.

Few news stations in Britain gave anything more than a few minutes coverage to the demonstrations throughout the last week. However following the volleys of tear gas late Sunday CNN scrubbed regular programming and gave up more nearly 12 hours of coverage almost entirely to the Hong Kong protests.

The same was not true of other major news outlets. Sky News, the BBC news channel, Al Jazeera, RT and France 24 only occasionally dipped into the events on the ground.

On Monday the story topped headlines on CNN, France 24 and Al Jazeera, though due to the Conservative Party conference in Britain the story was pushed to one side on the BBC and Sky News.

Effect on markets

The impact of the demonstration has affected business across the important global financial centre. The Hang Seng lost some 2% in the day and some 44 bank branches were closed.

Since being handed back to China in 1997 Hong Kong has been a Special Administrative Region, ruled under a so-called "One country, two systems" policy. However, there are fears amongst its residents that in the future the region will be swallowed up by the mainland, essentially becoming one country with one policy that covers the whole region.

In 2017 there will be more open elections, but the way candidates are chosen and ratified by Beijing, has angered people in Hong Kong who say this does not come up to their expectations of true democracy.

Voting rights

Currently only a select few can vote for the Hong Kong

While there is a great deal more freedom in Hong Kong, 15 years after the handover from British colonial rule many Hong Kong residents fear that China is reneging on its promises. With only 12 hundred people eligible to vote in a city of 7 million, residents are calling for a bigger say in the war the Special Administrative Region is run. Beijing says that it has considered a real election allowing everyone to directly elect its leader by 2017 and legislators by 2020.

Although full universal suffrage was never granted by the British to its colony before the handover in 1997, some democratisation began in 1984. However little has changed over the last 18 years despite countless protests calling for greater democracy in the region.

However, mainland China has maintained a firm grip on power over the SAR and many of the political candidates are hand-picked by Beijing. In the Hong Kong Chief Executive election of 2012 Albert Ho Chun-yan stood little chance in being elected. He faced off with two pro-Beijing opponents, Leung Chun-ying and Henry Tang. Both were backed by the Chinese Communist Party, and there are widespread allegations that Leung himself was even a member. Both have also been accused, by opponents, of being involved in various scandals ranging from extra-marital affairs to corruption.

As the electorate, consisting of only 0.02% of the Hong Kong population, went to the polls in March, others held their own mock election to protest the lack of true democracy [Al Jazeera - YouTube] . But such protests fall on deaf ears, and are certainly not reported in mainland China. And with most of those voting showing loyalty to Beijing it was no surprise that Leung clinched the leadership role.

But while these new protests may unnerve Beijing, but they are unlikely to cave in to the protesters demands.

In accordance with the "One country, two systems" principle agreed between the UK and the PRC, the socialist system of PRC would not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and its way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years until 2047.

In fact while much of the focus has been on 2017 and the next Hong Kong elections, 2047 is also a significant milestone. Will the freedoms currently enjoyed in the region be eroded? And will business be affected?

Future uncertainty

There may certainly be a drain of confidence in the markets if protests continue, but there are also concerns for the future amongst those that do business in Hong Kong. Indeed the uncertainty of what will happen after 2047 is clearly an issue for those that do business in Hong Kong.

The protests have spread across much of Hong Kong and beyond the central business district. This will be of concern not only for Hong Kong authorities but also for Beijing who will be worried that any concessions may spark protests for democracy in mainland China.

The protests may have been largely peaceful, but the world will be watching closely worried perhaps that the continued demonstrations could precipitate a response similar to the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989.

Read more: tvnewswatch: Hong Kong anniversary protests raise questions for all sides / Sky / BBC / BBC / CNN / D Mail

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Is Britain now a Disunited Kingdom?

The violent scenes in Glasgow on Friday night between Yes and No supporters may have been isolated, but they point to the clear divisions that have been stirred up by the Scottish independence debate and referendum.

Unionists flooded parts of Glasgow on Friday evening taunting and jeering nationalists who they saw as traitors to Britain. Some protesters, draped in the union flag, were seen making Nazi-style salutes whilst shouting chants of "England".

The protests were relatively small with only 80 police needed to contain the situation as pro and anti independence campaigners fought on the streets, some throwing chairs and flares at each other [Daily MailDaily RecordFT / Russia Today]

However the images that will be seen around the world will be uncomfortable for Westminster who would prefer that the decisive No vote showed there was a clear mandate that the people of Scotland wished to remain a part of the Union.

50/50 split

In fact only a little over half the the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the UK, and many say they were pushed towards voting no to independence because of the scaremongering in the last few days of the campaign.

The No vote defeated the Yes vote in Thursday's referendum by 2,001,926 to 1,617,989, a national split of 55% to 45%.

There have also been accusations of vote rigging and electoral fraud though it is unclear whether these cases will be investigated or if they played any significant part in the process [BBC / Sky News / Daily Mail / Metro / GuardianRIA - Russian].

What is clear, is that Scotland is deeply divided. Many who voted no, have expressed a desire to have gone the other way but felt some fundamental questions, particularly about currency and finance, had not been addressed by the Yes campaign.

Dreams & nightmares

As first minister Alex Salmond announced his intention to step down on Friday he said the campaign for independence would continue and "the dream shall never die" [BBC / BBC].

But for millions of Scots, the decades ahead may prove to be more a nightmare. Many may also ponder the question "What if?". The younger generation, particularly, may feel aggrieved. Statistics showed that younger people were more likely to have voted Yes whilst older people voted No [Guardian]. There were also clear geographical divisions too with some parts of the country leaning more towards the No camp than others [BBC]. 

Back in Westminster, the No vote brought cheers with promises that there would be political reforms and changes to the way both Scotland and the rest of Great Britain was to be governed. But less than two days later there were already signs of divisions in parliament as leaders on both sides disagreed with each other.

Political divisions

Labour party leader Ed Miliband signalled he would not sign up to Prime Minister David Cameron's plan for a new UK-wide devolution settlement in the wake of the Scottish referendum.

Cameron wants enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament and new powers for English MPs at Westminster agreed, in draft, before the 2015 election.

However, Miliband wants a "constitutional convention" after the election to discuss devolution plans for England. One reason he is reticent to discuss English devolution and address the West Lothian question is that Labour might also lose some sway in the Commons [BBC / Telegraph / Guardian / Telegraph].

English opinion

As for the people of England, opinions vary widely. Some have expressed disappointment at the No vote, hoping to be rid of the Scots that they see as a drain on English taxes.

Most people in England overwhelmingly reject the Scottish Government's claim that independence would have improved relations between the two countries, with only 10% believing that it would.

However, surveys carried out a month before the referendum showed that English people wanted a much tougher stance on Scotland if it decided to say in the Union.

Some 56% of those polled said that public spending in Scotland should be reduced to the UK average following a No vote, while 63% believed that Scottish MPs should be prevented from voting on English laws, a clear indication that many felt the West Lothian question should be tackled.

For some English people feelings are less strong. "It's a matter for the Scots," said one shopper on Saturday, "I'm just glad it's all over."

If only she were right.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scottish No vote creates divisions on both sides of border

On Thursday 18th September 2014 Scotland voted No in a referendum concerning Scottish independence. But while there was much rejoicing in the "Better Together" camp, the result may create some deep divisions, not only amongst the Scots but also between Scotland and its neighbours.

Issues of defence, financial concerns and what currency and independent Scotland might use were major questions that for some remained unanswered.

Scottish patriotism and a hope for a new start was not enough to swing it for Alex Salmond's Yes campaign.

High turnout

Voter turnout was extremely high, more than 90% in some regions, a clear sign that the issue was important in the minds of the Scottish people.

But shortly after 6:00 a.m. history had been made as it was declared that Scotland had rejected the chance of independence.

The final result was 44.7%, or 1,617,989 votes, for Yes, with 55.3%, 2,001,926, voting No.

Celebration in Westminster

In the hours that followed leaders of the major political parties came out to praise the decision. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was delighted at the result and said that is was "time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward." 

Labour leader Ed Miliband insisted that the result was not a vote to maintain the status quo but a "vote for change".

All parties must now work for greater autonomy, a stronger Scottish parliament and a stronger Scotland, Miliband said. Indeed the decision should also spark discussions about devolution for Wales and England.

But while there was a sense of relief and celebration in Westminster, many English citizens expressed dismay at the result.

Anger on social media

Comments on social media showed there were deep divisions resulting from the whole campaign.

"As an Englishman I'm gutted, we've read on a daily basis the anti-English bile coming from a large proportion of Scots toward us, I was hoping for a resounding YES vote so we could cut the apron strings and the financial benefits we give these so called 'Bravehearts'," one man posted on the Daily Mail website under the moniker Bristolbeau.

He went on to accuse the Scots of "choosing to live off the back of the English lion rather than stand on their own two feet."

It was not a lone voice. Indeed the whole debate about Scottish independence has highlighted the iniquity that exists both north and south of the border.

Scots are widely seen as benefiting from free university fees, NHS prescriptions and eye care, on the backs of the English taxpayer.

West Lothian question

Many English also feel aggrieved that the Irish, Scots and Welsh also have their own national assemblies, while England maintains a national parliament where MPs from these states may still influence decisions made at Westminster. Indeed the debate surrounding the so-called West Lothian question will now be one that Westminster MPs will not be able to side track.

"Cameron has been so worried about the Scots he hasn't noticed how bloody angry the English are?" one man wrote on the Daily Mail website. "I can't speak for the Welsh or Irish but I suspect they feel aggrieved too, but they at least have assemblies."

It wasn't just comments on right wing newspaper websites that expressed anger. On the Guardian website there were also calls for English devolution and changes to the way Scotland is funded.

"People living in England have been treated as second class citizens compared to those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for far too long," one commenter wrote.

Cameron will certainly be under pressure to make reforms, not only from the electorate but also the opposition. Miliband has suggested reform is needed, and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has also said the question over English devolution also needs to be tackled.

"If at first you don't succeed…"

Alex Salmond said he "accepted the verdict of the people".

However, there are many people in England who will not accept the status quo and will, in the coming months, demand change to the way England is run and the way Scotland is funded.

But what of the future of Scottish independence. Alex Salmond said he accepted that the people rejected the notion of independence "this time". The Edinburgh Agreement stated that a referendum must be held by the end of 2014. This has been upheld and there is no arrangement in place for another referendum on independence.

However, Salmond may be looking to history for inspiration. There is a well known legend surrounding Robert the Bruce, King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329. It is said that in the early days of Bruce's reign he was defeated by the English and driven into exile. Whilst on the run he sought refuge in a small dark cave and sat watching a little spider trying to make a web.

Each time the spider failed, it began again and continued until it succeeded. Inspired by this, Bruce returned to inflict a series of defeats on the English, thus winning him more supporters and eventual victory. The story served to illustrate the maxim: "if at first you don't succeed, try try try again."

Salmond will no doubt be thinking the same as he retreats to lick his wounds.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ISIL censored videos still invoke fear & concerns

On the 14th September ISIL claimed to have killed a British hostage and published an execution video on the Internet. It was the latest in a series of such videos showing western hostages forced to denounce foreign policy prior to their execution by a member of the terror group ISIL [BBCNBC / D Mail].

The barbarity of ISIL is unquestioned. This is a terror group that has been involved with the wholesale slaughter of entire villages and executions [Warning Graphic: D Mail /   EAWorldView / LiveLeak]. They have beheaded and crucified ethnic minorities and Christians in northern Iraq and Syria [Telegraph / WesternJournalism / Vice News]. And it is also reported that ISIL are also selling women as sex slaves [Telegraph / D Mail / Al Arabiya / Zee News].

Execution videos

The videos related to the execution of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, and British aid worker David Haines all have striking similarities. All the hostages are dressed in orange boiler suits. The militant who appears in the videos appears to be the same man and speaks in a London accent. And the location where the videos were shot is a barren desert. As well as there being a focus on the identity of the militant and location, the content and editing has also raised a number of questions.

While few doubt the men have been murdered by the terror group, the actual killing not shown. After the hostages have made statements condemning Barack Obama or, in the case of David Haines, David Cameron, an ISIL militant follows by making his own statement and raises a knife to the victims throat. The video then fades to black. The video then shows the victim's decapitated head placed on his body. This apparent self-censorship has struck some as being somewhat bizarre given the group is hardly known for its sensitivity.

Anomalies and conspiracies

Another anomaly is that there are few, if any religious references. The Islamic State militants claim to be guided by the Koran, but there are no shouts of  Allāhu Akbar [الله أكبر], or "God is Great", something which is often a trademark of Islamic extremist videos. Some have also pointed to the fact that as the militant appears to draw the knife over the victim's throat it appears to be more for show since there is no sign of blood [Telegraph / IBT / Global Mirror / TopInfoPost].

The inconsistencies have spawned many conspiracy theories, with some even suggesting the hostages have not even been killed and that the series of videos are part of a well crafted PsyOps perpetrated by the United States to justify military intervention in Syria and Iraq [InfoWars / LiveLeak].

However, whether or not the video is fake, made by rogue elements of ISIL or even a PsyOp, ISIL is clearly a threat. Indeed, the videos themselves have certainly been accepted at face value by both ISIL supporters and its enemies.

Propaganda & copycat plots

They have served as useful propaganda to draw together allies in a renewed war on terror. The videos have also served as a recruiting tool and it is feared that they are also giving ideas to those who might wish to carry out domestic attacks abroad.

Only days after the third hostage execution video was released Australian police launched raids and arrested a number of suspects it believed were planning random executions.

Police said they had uncovered information that suggested Islamic extremists were plotting to capture members of the public, drape them in the Islamic State flag and behead them.

The "demonstration killings" would have been filmed and then posted on the Internet, according to Australian media reports. The raids, involving at least 800 heavily-armed officers, led to 15 arrests [BBC / Sky News / CNNABC / Mashable / .

Raising threat levels

The reports will not only certain raise public concerns in Australia, but also in Britain, Europe and the US. Australia had already raised its terror alert level to "High", suggesting that a terror attack was "likely" [National Security]. Britain had also raised its alert level to "Severe", meaning that a terrorist attack was "highly likely" [MI5].

The reportage, posting of extremist videos and terror threats have served to increase Islamophobia and racism.

Rising Islamophobia

Indeed it has been reported that Islamic State extremism and the Rotherham abuse scandal are fuelling a far-right backlash in the UK, according to one of the Home Office's most senior advisers on right-wing extremism [BBC].

Data compiled by Tell Mama UK, which monitors anti-Islamic hatred, reflects fears that the actions of ISIL are provoking Islamophobia in the UK. In August it received 219 reports of abusive incidents targeted at Muslims in England, the same month as the IS beheading of US journalist James Foley. This was almost double the 112 incidents recorded in January.

In pubs across Britain some people are not shy of expressing their anger and intolerance of Muslims. "We should round up all the beardies and send them back," one man in a pub on the far outskirts of London declared. Another, asked for his view on the subject, suggested authorities round up all Sunni Muslims with a connection to ISIL and string them up on the wind turbines at the Ford plant in Dagenham. He went on to say anyone identified as a member of ISIL should be hung, drawn and quartered

Such views are extreme, and could be dismissed as just talk. However there are some that are prepared to do more than just talk.

Fears in Muslim communities

Such talk is raising fears in the Muslim community. And while British Muslims have condemned the terror groups and called for the release of British hostage Alan Henning this has done little to calm anger amongst some in the white community [BBC]. Indeed, the perceived threat from ISIL and other extremists may even trigger social disorder in communities across Britain and elsewhere.

Despite all the claims by politicians that terrorists should not be allowed to change our way of life, the opposite is in fact true. Real or not, the terror threat has resulted in tighter security, increased surveillance, growing racism and a more suspicious society.

The reasons behind the self-censorship of ISIL videos remains unclear. They are certainly less graphic than the videos released by Al Qaeda several years ago such as the execution of lorry driver Ken Bigley. But the effect has been the same - one of perpetrating fear.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Friday, September 12, 2014

Former DUP leader Ian Paisley dies age 88

Ian Paisley the former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, blamed by nationalists for stirring up trouble in Northern Ireland and by others for helping cement the peace process, has died aged 88.

The son of a Baptist minister he was a protester, preacher and peacemaker and particularly marked by his firebrand style of his speeches.

When he stepped down as first minister of the DUP he said it was of his own choosing but later said his successor Peter Robinson and others in the DUP forced him out.

Whilst he divided opinion, his parting will leave a hole in Northern Ireland's political landscape. In fact, despite the turbulent relationship Paisley had with his rivals in Sinn Féin, Martin McGuinness tweeted that he had lost a "friend".

"Very sad to learn that Ian Paisley has died, McGuinness posted on the social network. "My deepest sympathy to his wife Eileen & family. Once political opponents - I have lost a friend."

Reports: Sky News / BBC / BBC - Obituary / Ch4 News

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Scottish independence rattles China, Spain and others

The debate over Scottish independence has raised concerns in a number of countries where there are ongoing disputes over independence.

Some papers have discussed fears that a split from the union could spark an independence movement in small countries elsewhere. There have also concerns raised as to whether constitutional links amongst Commonwealth countries might be affected.

Chinese concerns

China, in particular is worried that the Scottish referendum might rekindle debates over Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan.

China has expressed surprise that London would even consider allowing the UK to break up. Furthermore its Premier Li Keqiang has said he wants to see the United Kingdom remain "united", adding that he believed the UK could "stay at the forefront in leading the world's growth and development".

His reply should not have come as a surprise. It reflects Beijing's worry about any independence movement, even one half way round the world.

Whilst the Scots are being offered a vote to determine their future, in China any talk of separation is regarded as treason and could result in a lengthy jail sentence.

Beijing has launched a huge security crackdown against what it calls Uighur separatists in the western region of Xinjiang. And in Tibet tensions still exist more than 50 years after China 'liberated' the territory and imposed Chinese rule.

Meanwhile the island of Taiwan has been threatened with invasion should they declare formal independence [BBC / BBC].

Chinese media response

Whilst China's state run news agency has been unable to avoid reporting the news surrounding Scottish independence, official responses have been somewhat muted.

When asked whether China would veto any application to the UN following independence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson responded by saying that Scotland's independence referendum was "an internal matter of the UK."

"China has no comment on that," the spokesperson added [Xinhua]. While China claims not to have an opinion, its reporting has been very much biased towards the 'No' campaign. Articles in the last few days all point to the negative effects that independence would bring.

Oil tycoons voice opposition against Scottish independence, Salmond tries to disperse concern over financial consequences from "Yes" vote, Scottish vote for independence would change political map of remaining UK: expert, and Latest poll shows "No" backers exceed "Yes" over Scotland's independence were just some of the headlines, an indication that China's view was very much that of PM David Cameron that the UK would be better off working together.

Some media has gone further though, suggesting that the remaining union would become a third-rate nation should Scotland depart. The Beijing News roundly mocked the idea of a divided Britain, saying that the country would lose its status as a "world centre of politics, economics and culture".

The Global Times and the People's Daily, both Chinese state run newspapers, also suggested that the UK would fall from "a first-class country to a second-class one" and that David Cameron would "become a 'sinner' of history for the UK".

Chinese language newspapers and websites were even more vocal. The China Daily, Xinhua and the Global Times all talked of the risks of separatism and said China could not "afford to play this British game"

Meanwhile China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, deputy director Wang Shuo said Scottish independence would "establish a bad precedent" whilst the Global Times said "any step towards separatism can provoke a chain reaction" [Telegraph].

Spanish worries

It's not just China who is worried about the Scottish referendum. The independence debate has sparked discussions in Spain where Catalonia has sought independence for many years.

Some 1.8 million separatists in northeastern Spain have staged mass protests across Catalonia to demand a secession vote deemed illegal by Spanish government. "The UK is willing to let Scotland vote and Catalonia is refused that right by the Spanish," says Liz Castro, an author and publisher who divides her time between Massachusetts and Barcelona. "Catalans look to the Scotland-UK question with a sense of envy and admiration."

Despite the protests, a 'Yes' vote in Scotland won't change anything since the Spanish Government will maintain that the Constitution prohibits any consultation or referendum in an autonomous community [Telegraph / Guardian / US Today]

Other separatist movements

Europe has dozens of separatist movements and it is possible that some could stir should the Scottish referendum swing towards independence. In the far west of England there exists a strong nationalistic movement seeking the devolution of Cornwall from the rest of the UK.

Across the rest of Asia as well as China, separatist may become more emboldened. There are dozens of regions disputed by separatists, nationalists and state bodies. The same is true in Africa, North and South America and other parts of the world

In some countries, such as China, independence campaigners will simply be beaten back. In others they will simply be ignored. But Scottish devolution has already ignited the touchpaper and it will be hard to extinguish the flame.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Many questions unanswered in Scottish independence debate

With only ten days to go before Scotland decides on its future as either an independent state or part of a "family of nations", the UK's party leaders dropped into Scotland in attempt to boost the No vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron as well as Labour leader Ed Miliband abandoned their weekly prime minister's questions clash to fly north. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also followed prompting First Minister Alex Salmond to call them the "Three Amigos".

In what appeared to be a last ditch attempt to turn things around, the Westminster troop needed to seize the initiative and persuade the Yes camp that Scottish independence would not be good either for Scotland or the UK as a whole.

Amongst the nationalist camp there is a rejection of assertions that Scotland would be unable to go it alone. Indeed many appear to be ignoring or glossing over fundamental issues.

Salmond self has evaded questions or given woolly answers concerning issues such as the future of the Scottish currency, defence, NATO membership and even border controls.

Writing in The Times, Sir John Major said the repercussion of Scottish independence would be profound. "I believe Scotland and the whole of the UK as a whole would be damaged."

"The UK would be weaker in every international body and, most damagingly, within the European Union. Our chance of reforming the EU would be diminished, and the risk of our exit from it enhanced."

Scotland too would face major challenges.


As Salmond maintains, Scotland would be able to become a part of the EU. However, the current policy of the European Commission, as set out by its last president, José Manuel Durão Barroso, is that an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU. The Scottish government disagrees since it believes its membership would be continuous. It denies Scotland would be forced, as new nations are, to join the euro. The current consensus among EU member states is that Barroso is correct in his assertion, but it remains to be seen.

Scotland's independence would result in it no longer being a part of NATO. Whilst it could apply to join NATO, it would need to commit to spending 2% of its GDP annually on defence, reversing the defence cut it has promised to make after independence.

England would also face dilemmas concerning its significant military presence in Scotland. There are a number of submarine, navy and other military bases which may well be forced to head south, at great cost to the rest of the Union.

Currency issues

Currency is one of the much discussed issues. Salmond maintains that Scotland will continue to use the pound, though Westminster says he can't. To allow the Scots to use the English currency without the Treasury in Whitehall having control of Scottish economic policy would incur massive potential liabilities for the English taxpayer if the Scottish economy imploded.

Of course Scotland could choose to use the pound, in the same way that some Caribbean islands use the US dollar despite being outside America. However, divergence between the two economies could make Scotland a debt-ridden state much as Greece is to Germany.

Choosing to use the euro in the same way would bring similar problems. Furthermore Scotland cannot adopt it officially while it is still outside the EU which brings up the issue concerning membership which is again tenuous.

Scotland could set up its own currency, but it might face rapid and possibly steep devaluation, especially if it defaulted on its historic share of UK debt. Scotland has 8.4% of the UK population, and could be expected to pay 8.4% of the national public debt amounting to £111 billion of the current £1.32 trillion debt. However, the SNP say they won't honour the debt unless England agrees to a currency union, which itself is highly unlikely.

Dividing borders

No-one has yet proposed rebuilding Hadrian's Wall, but there have been some serious discussions concerning border controls.

Should Scotland join the EU, it would be forced to join up to Europe's Schengen agreement, which effectively abolishes internal borders. This would mean that anyone on the Continent could travel to Scotland unhindered.

The fear is that Scotland might create another easy entry point to England for thousands of economic migrants that currently mass in northern France [Daily Mail / Telegraph]

Such concerns have prompted the likes of Ed Miliband and others to intimate that a Yes referendum result could lead to policed border controls and passport checks between England and Scotland.

Indeed Scottish citizenship would require the issuing of Scottish passports. And then England and the rest of the UK could bar Scottish citizens from England, Wales and Northern Ireland until such times as Scotland's membership of the EU is ratified.

Other questions

These aren't the only challenges facing an independent Scotland. There are of course worries about the economy itself and how an independent Scotland will make money. There are debates over its future head of state. The Queen would likely stay as the Queen of Scotland, though Scots could invite the man regarded by some as James's legitimate heir, the 'Stuart Pretender', to replace the her. That would mean the present Duke of Bavaria becoming King Francis II of Scotland. However, Duke Franz claims to be perfectly content where he is.

Less of an issue for Scotland is what might become of the Union Flag. There has been much debate over this. Some have suggested that the flag might remain as it is, though a redesign is just as likely. The blue background might well be erased or even replaced with another colour [BBC].

Nothing is certain other than the debate over Scotland's future will continue well after the vote on September 18th.

Read more: Daily Mail /  / Guardian / BBC - Papers / Wikipedia /

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

ISIL kill US journalist threaten death of Brit

Britain held an emergency COBRA meeting Wednesday after it emerged that a British citizen was amongst others held by the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The news that a British man was being held emerged in a new video that was posted on the Internet and discovered by SITE, which monitors the Jihadist threat. The video showed the execution and beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff, preceded by a statement from Sotloff criticizing American foreign policy. It seemed clear the Sotloff was acting under duress, forced to make propaganda statements for his captors before being murdered in the desert.

Censorship & redactions

The video does not show the actual killing, cutting to black as the knife is brought to Sotloff's throat, Though a subsequent shot appears showing his decapitated corpse. Its structure is similar to that of the Foley execution video which was released two weeks ago.

In both cases there has been censorship, redactions and self-censorship imposed by news organisations themselves, or requested by government departments.

No news organisation has shown the video in its entirety, which is perhaps understandable. However, many news organisations also resorted to only showing selected still shots. In addition, the British journalist shown at the end of the video, and threatened with execution, was not named by most British news organisations.

Some redactions and acts of censorship is understandable. There are questions of taste when it comes to broadcasting execution videos. However, the naming or not naming a British citizen is not such a clear cut decision. The man has been named by some US news organisations, however UK government officials put out a request that the media not name the individual concerned.

Reasons offered by official intimate that "coverage will increase the threat to their lives." Though such assertions have been questioned.

The lack of publicity is said to dissuade would-be hostage-takers from bothering to kidnap reporters or others. There is some logic to this. But a complete blackout is almost entirely impossible in the modern age where the spread of information through the Internet is less controllable [Daily Beast].

What's in a name

The very name of the terrorist organisation, labelled a major threat to the West, has also been the subject of debate. Initially news organizations called the group ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But later the last two letters were dropped with much of the media calling the terror group IS or Islamic State.

Meanwhile the British and US government have decided to stick with ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Government have explained their decision saying that calling the terror group IS gives them legitimacy. Nonetheless, Sky News and the BBC have yet to drop the IS tag in favour of ISIL or ISIS. CNN and other US news outlets continue to use the acronym ISIS.

Some Arab media outlets and politicians have meanwhile started using the term Da'ish. It appears to have originated from posts by Syrian opposition activists and social media users.

Da'ish is not an Arabic word and the use of acronyms is not common in Arabic. Furthermore, the jihadist group objects to the term and has advised against its usage [BBC].

Meanwhile, the use of the acronym ISIS has upset a number a number of people who share their name with the terror group. Isis Martinez, an alternative medicine provider based in Miami, started a petition asking the media to call the Islamic State by the acronym ISIL rather than ISIS. The former acronym, while used by President Obama and considered acceptable by scholars and journalists for its technical merits, is far less common than the more understandable and recognizable acronym ISIS [Vox].

Isis is also the name of an ancient Egyptian goddess worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was also the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, a far cry from the murderous group that is currently spreading terror in the Middle East.

Ongoing war

There are fears that the British man shown in the latest ISIL video may already be dead. Indeed, similarities in the Foley and Sotloff productions seem to point to the fact they may have been filmed at the same time.

Whether or not he is safe, there are believed to be many others held by ISIL whose lives hang in the balance. Unfortunately their chances are not good.

Rescue efforts have been launched and failed. New strategies will likely be planned. Speaking after Sotloff's murder, President Obama affirmed his objective to "degrade and destroy ISIL". However, both the US and Britain have yet to establish any clear strategy as to how they might tackle the ongoing jihadist threat.

Obama conceded that the mission to destroy ISIL was "not going to be a one week operation". That much is clear. It took more than a decade to significantly degrade al-Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks. Yet like the Hydra, its extremist ideology was not killed by striking off one head. Indeed ISIL has itself grown out of Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn - more commonly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq - formed by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in 1999, which took part in the Iraqi insurgency against American-led forces and their Iraqi allies following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The irony is that al-Qaeda themselves have cut all ties with ISIL, reportedly for its brutality and "notorious intractability".

Media censorship, blackouts and redactions will do little to curtain ISIL's brutality. The public may be shielded from the horror, and families of those kidnapped may be protected from unnecessary grief. Politicians talk of cutting off the oxygen of publicity concerning such terror groups. Yet ignoring the severity of the problem and watering down the horror may only serve to soften the response to the threat.

tvnewswatch, London, UK