1. President Obama Visits Wales
It’s not often a president gets to go somewhere no U.S. president has ever been before. But next week, President Obama will become the first occupant of the White House to set foot in Wales. He’s there for a NATO summit.
President Obama begins his trip to Europe by stopping off in Estonia, one of the former Soviet Union countries eying the crisis in Ukraine with most concern. Unlike Ukraine, Estonia – as well as Latvia and Lithuania – are NATO members. While the U.S. is not going to get involved in Ukraine’s war with Russia, article 5 of the NATO charter means “an attack on one, is an attack on all.”
In Estonia, the president says he will “reaffirm” the United States’ “unwavering commitment” to the defense of its NATO allies. Sixty-seven heads of state and government will be in Wales for the summit, but all eyes will be on a 68th who is not: Vladimir Putin will be center stage, even if he’s not physically there.
2. The NATO Summit and Afghanistan
The list of people who won’t be in Wales is perhaps more significant than those who are. Originally billed as a meeting to sort out Afghanistan’s future, it was supposed mark the entry onto the world stage for the country’s new president.
Afghanistan went to the polls in June to elect a successor to Hamid Karzai. But the election and the results have been tarnished with allegations of fraud – and the UN is currently overseeing an audit in an attempt to reconcile the two candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
Karzai was supposed to leave office in July, but has stayed on as caretaker. U.S. officials had initially hoped that a new president could be in place by midsummer because Karzai has refused to sign an agreement allowing several thousand American troops to remain in Afghanistan after this year. Both Ghani and Abdullah have pledged to sign it – but time is running out. With just four months left before the U.S. combat mission ends, the chance of the so-called “zero-option” – a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan – is becoming more likely by the day.
3. Monday Marks Dark Anniversary in Russia
Monday marks one of the darkest anniversaries in Russia’s recent history.
Ten years ago, on Sept. 1, 2004, a group of 32 pro-Chechen gunmen burst into School Number 1 in Beslan in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia. They stormed the school during the "first bell" celebration marking the beginning of the school year.
More than a thousand people – children and adults – were held hostage for three days: 334 of them were killed, most dying in a bloody gun battle when Russian special forces stormed the school gymnasium where the hostages were being kept, which the militants had littered with mines and bombs. More than 800 hostages were injured.
The hostage crisis in Beslan and the bungled rescue was a defining moment in Putin's war in southern Russia. The sole gunman who survived was jailed but spared the death penalty.
4. Report on Qatar's Allegedly Corrupt World Cup Bid Due
As Qatar takes center stage in U.S. attempts to bring home the remaining American hostages from Syria, the Gulf State will find itself back in the headlines again next week.
Former U.S. attorney Michael Garcia has spent more than 18 months investigating the allegations of corruption in the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to the Gulf State. Next week, he will hand his report to FIFA’s ethics committee.
FIFA’s former vice-president, Mohamed bin Hammam is accused of paying football officials around the world to get them to vote for Qatar. The Kingdom has denied any wrong doing.
Qatar beat off competition from the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea to host the 2022 competition, which will be staged in the middle of the desert kingdom’s summer. Temperatures could reach more than 120 degrees, so players and fans alike might just be hoping for a rethink. Garcia could recommend Qatar be stripped of hosting the World Cup, but his report will not be made public.
5. Air Guitar World Championships Final
This weekend, three Americans battled it out in the Air Guitar World Championships final in northern Finland. And there really is a championship!
While America’s Doug “The Thunder” Strook finished runner-up in the heats in the four-day competition, Japan's Nanami "Seven Seas" Nagura took home the top prize.
It’s the 19th time the championships have been held.