TIME Security

Londoners Unwittingly Exchange First Born Children For Free Wi-Fi

Signed agreement that included a "Herod Clause," in experiment designed to show dangers of unguarded Wi-Fi hotspots

Not reading the small print could mean big problems, as a handful of Londoners who accidentally signed away their first born children in exchange for access to free Wi-Fi recently found out.

An experiment organized by the Cyber Security Research Institute was conducted in some of the busiest neighborhoods in London and intended to highlight the major risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks.

In June, researchers set up a Wi-Fi hotspot that promised network access to users who agreed to a set of terms and conditions. These included a “Herod Clause” offering free Wi-Fi if the user agreed to hand over their eldest child “for the duration of eternity.” The page was disabled after six people signed up.

Finnish security firm F-Secure, which sponsored the research, said it had decided not to enforce the clause. “As this is an experiment, we will be returning the children to their parents,” wrote the Finnish company in its report. “While terms and conditions are legally binding, it is contrary to public policy to sell children in return for free services, so the clause would not be enforceable in a court of law.”

The company urged people to take Wi-Fi security more seriously. Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, told The Guardian: “People are thinking of Wi-Fi as a place as opposed to an activity…You don’t do unprotected Wi-Fi at home, why are you doing it in public?”

[The Guardian]

TIME Spain

Spain Looks to Halt Catalonia Independence Vote

Mas signs decree for non-binding Catalinian independence referendum
Thousands of people attend a rally to support the referendum on Catalonia's independence in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain on Sept. 11, 2014. Alberto Estevez—EPA

Following Scottish rejection of independence from U.K.

Spain’s leader said Monday that he will ask the country’s Constitutional Court to annul a new law that would allow the semi-autonomous Catalonia region to hold a referendum on independence.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s move, reported by BBC, follows a decree signed Saturday by Catalonia’s President Artur Mas calling for a Scottish-style referendum on independence to be held on Nov. 9. Spain’s central government quickly denounced the move, and Rajoy called the new Catalan law “anti-democratic” and said the vote “is not compatible with the Spanish constitution.”

Catalonia is home to 7.5 million people and is one of the most wealthy and most industrialized areas in Spain. Pro-independence sentiment in the region has surged in the years following Spain’s economic crisis. On Sept. 19, Catalonian lawmakers voted by a margin of 106 to 28 in favor of authorizing the referendum. Mas believes he can use local laws to hold the regional vote because it would be non-binding. He said “Catalonia wants to speak; it wants to be heard and it wants to vote.”

Rajoy responded by saying “there is no one and nothing that can deprive Spaniards of their constitutional rights” since Spain’s constitution does not allow referendums on sovereignty that don’t include all Spaniards.

[BBC]

TIME United Kingdom

U.K. Counter-Terrorism Police Arrest 9 Men in London

File photograph shows Muslim preacher Choudary addressing members of the media during a protest supporting Shari'ah Law in north London
Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary addressing media during a protest supporting Shari'ah Law in north London in 2009. Tal Cohen—Reuters

British police arrested nine men in London on Thursday morning on suspicion of encouraging terrorism and being members of and supporting banned organizations.

The men arrested range in age from 22 to 51 and are all in police custody in London. One of the men identified is Anjem Choudary, one of the most high-profile radical Muslim preachers in Britain. Choudary, 47, was previously the head of Islamist group al-Muhajiroun or Islam4UK, which was banned in 2010. Choudary is well-known for organizing demonstrations against Western military action in the Middle East and for publicly expressing support for the Sept.11 attacks on the U.S. and the July 7 bombings in London.

London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that 18 residential, business and community premises are being searched in London, along with one residential property over 150 miles away in Stoke-on-Trent. Police added that the arrests and searches were not a response to any immediate risk to public safety, but were part of an ongoing investigation into Islamist-related terrorism.

[BBC]

TIME Military

Afghan Soldiers Missing From Massachusetts Base

Not thought to be a danger to the public

Three Afghan soldiers taking part in an annual military training exercise in Massachusetts were missing after a trip to a shopping mall Sunday, officials said.

U.S. military officials said the soldiers aren’t thought to be a danger to the public, CNN reports.

The three men were part of a team of 15 soldiers from the Afghanistan National Army, the rest of whom are still participating in the week-long exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod. Federal and state authorities are working to find the soldiers.

[CNN]

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Lockdown in Sierra Leone Finds 150 New Cases

Ebola Sierra Leone Lock Down
A volunteer health worker talks with a resident on how to prevent and identify the Ebola virus in others, and distributes bars of soap in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sept. 20, 2014. Michael Duff—AP

The lockdown was one of the most aggressive containment strategies employed so far in the outbreak

A three-day lockdown meant to contain the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone ended late Sunday night with officials hailing it as a “huge success” after health workers found almost 100 victims who perished from the disease and another 56 who have been infected.

The head of the Emergency Operations Center leading Sierra Leone’s Ebola response, Stephen Gaojia, called the lockdown “a huge success,” Reuters reports. About 123 people had contacted authorities by Sunday morning thinking they might be infected; 56 tested positive for the virus, 31 negative and 36 were still awaiting results.Final numbers will only be released once information is compiled from around the country.

The lockdown was one of the most aggressive containment strategies to be employed so far in the growing effort to contain the worst Ebola outbreak in history, which has killed more than 2,600 people across West Africa. Sierra Leone ordered its six million residents to stay indoors for three days, while 30,000 health workers, volunteers and teachers circulated, educating households on how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Health Minister Abubakkarr Fofanah told AFP that volunteers had managed to reach about 80% of homes and said: “Although this campaign has ended, there is a possibility we would have a similar one some other time.”

[Reuters]

TIME United Kingdom

The World Reacts to Scotland’s Decision Not to Leave the UK

The world had a mixed reaction to Scotland's "No" vote

When Scotland voted against independence in Thursday’s referendum, people across the world reacted with a mixture of relief, disappointment and trepidation at what the result might mean for other separatist movements. Yet while Scotland’s silent majority for unity won out in the final ballot, the Yes campaigners succeeded in making their voices heard, not only by the Westminster political establishment but in global headlines. One debate may have ended for now, but in many parts of the world, others are just beginning.

British political leaders praised the outcome Friday morning, but also looked forward to the new reforms promised by the Westminster parties, such as greater tax and welfare powers to be given to the four nations that make up the United Kingdom. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones tweeted that he was “pleased the people of Scotland have voted to remain in the Union – together we will shape a new constitutional future for the UK.” Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson agreed: “Delighted Scotland has voted to remain in the Union. We are better together.”

Some, however, were more cautious. A number of Northern Ireland politicians, including Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin (the Irish Republican political party) expressed the need for London to “deliver its promises.” The leader of Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalist party), Leanne Wood, said that her party remained “skeptical about Westminster’s promises of new powers” and insisted that “any offers to Scotland must be offered to Wales too.” She said it was clear that: “Britain has changed forever” and that “a new process must now begin involving all the nations of the U.K. to ensure meaningful and significant decentralization.”

Further afield, support for Scotland’s results came from many world leaders, some of whom may be hoping the No vote will discourage their own secessionist movements. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a video statement the Scots “chose the best option for everyone – for themselves and for Europe,” avoiding “the serious economic, social, institutional and political consequences that separation would have brought.” His comments come at a critical time in the Catalonian independence movement, as on Friday afternoon, Catalan politicians are set to vote on an independence referendum penciled in for November 9. The semi-autonomous Catalonia region is one of the most wealthy and industrialized regions in Spain, and support for secession has surged since Spain’s financial crisis. Spain’s foreign minister said Tuesday the Spanish government would use “the full force of the law” to supersede any kind of vote in Catalonia.

But Catalan campaigners aren’t deterred by Friday’s outcome. Richard Gené of the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly movement told The Guardian: “Whether they voted yes or no, that would have been all right . . . What we really feel is envy about the possibility of voting. This is what we are fighting for.” While a Yes vote “would have acted as a kind of icebreaker for difficult issues such as EU membership and NATO membership,” remarked Albert Royo of Diplocat, the Catalonian body for public diplomacy, the No vote “does not mean that everyone here will decide to give up and conclude that the issue is over.”

In fact, Royo saw a lesson in the outcome that could reassure governments unsure of whether or not to hold referendums. “Letting people vote does not mean that they will automatically vote for independence,” he said.

The Scotland vote has also struck a particular chord with nationalists from the Canadian province of Quebec, where the No vote prevailed in the two independence referendums of 1980 and 1995. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird tweeted: “Canada welcomes this decision,” but the sizable contingent of Quebecois nationalists who flocked to Scotland in hope of a Yes vote may well feel differently. Meanwhile in India, leading news sites have analyzed the impact of Scotland’s referendum in fueling calls for a similar referendum in the disputed Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir. Violent opposition to Indian rule peaked in this northeastern region in the 1990s, but tensions still run high. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a hardline separatist leader, argued that ”India should learn lessons from UK and honor its commitment of granting the right to self-determination to people of Kashmir.” Moderate Kashmiri separatist leader Mirawiz Umar Farooq said Scotland’s referendum was an encouraging example of how “in a peaceful manner people will be deciding their future.”

Indeed, it is the peaceful democratic nature of Scotland’s referendum that has drawn the most praise from politicians, not to mention its high turnout of 84.6%.

“We welcome the result of yesterday’s referendum on Scottish independence and congratulate the people of Scotland for their full and energetic exercise of democracy,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in a Friday morning statement. “Through debate, discussion, and passionate yet peaceful deliberations, they reminded the world of Scotland’s enormous contributions to the UK and the world, and have spoken in favor of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom.”

German Foreign Minister agreed with many leaders that the No result is “a good decision for Scotland,” but added that he held “great respect for Great Britain’s exemplary democratic culture as it was displayed in this referendum.” Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, praised the vote as being part of a “democratically agreed process,” while Irish political leader Dr. Alasdair McDonnell said the Scottish National Party had shown how independence campaigns “should be fought.”

“This was a campaign of ideas, policies and debates not violence, death and intimidation. The futility of our own recent history has been drawn into stark contrast,” McDonnell said. And though many are disappointed with the vote’s outcome, it’s worth noting the success of the referendum in energizing Scottish voters. Pro-independence leader Alex Salmond heralded the historically high turnout as a “triumph for the democratic process.”

TIME Iraq

ISIS Releases Video of ‘Message’ from British Hostage

Futurenet1977/Wikipedia

Press photographer John Cantlie, kidnapped in Syria almost two years ago, appears in a new propaganda video by the Islamic extremist group

A video posted on YouTube shows John Cantlie, a British press photographer, delivering a ‘message’ to the public as a captive of the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

Cantlie, 43, has been held prisoner for almost two years by the same militants responsible for the beheading of two American journalists and one British aid worker since August. ISIS began posting videos online after the U.S. began launching airstrikes in northern Iraq.

The video runs for just over 3 minutes and is titled “Lend Me Your Ears, Messages from the British Detainee John Cantlie”.

The journalist, who appears in an orange shirt sitting behind a desk, speaks calmly but makes it clear he is under duress. “Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking: ‘he’s only doing this because he’s a prisoner. He’s got a gun at his head and he’s being forced to do this,’ right?” he says. “Well it’s true I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny. But seeing as I’ve been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of Islamic State I have nothing to lose.”

Cantlie then promises to “convey some facts” about ISIS in a series of “programmes” he will be filming; about the “truth” behind the group, and about how the Western media is being “manipulated.” He notes that many European hostages have been released after their governments negotiated with the extremists, but that British and American authorities refuse to do so.

This is not the first time Cantlie has been captured by Syrian militants, The Guardian reports. In 2012 he was rescued from kidnappers after a seven-day ordeal but returned to Syria four months later, where he was abducted again and sold on to ISIS.

Cantlie has worked for British newspapers including the Sunday Times, the Sun and the Sunday Telegraph. It is thought that he was abducted as he attempted to leave the country along with James Foley, the first U.S. journalist to be beheaded in the video posted online on Aug. 19. Alan Henning, a 47-year-old British taxi driver who went to Syria as a volunteer on an aid convoy, has also been threatened with death by ISIS militants.

TIME Scotland

Scotland Heads to the Polls to Vote on Independence

Voters as young as 16 get to decide if their country should be independent

Voting is underway in Scotland’s historic independence referendum Thursday, and the atmosphere at the polls is electric. Scots began lining up to vote before the polls even opened at 7 a.m. BST (2 a.m. ET), to have their say on whether Scotland should stay in the U.K. or become an independent nation. And with over 4.2 million people registered to vote, a historically high turnout is expected.

While one member of the Scottish parliament praised the vote’s “precious democracy” and early participation rates, concerns over rising hostility in the independence campaign led one senior pro-union Better Together source to predict “absolute carnage” on polling day. Jackie Baillie, another member of the Scottish Parliament, tweeted a photo of one polling place bearing the graffiti “Vote Yes or Else!” and criticized the behavior of those “trying to threaten and intimidate” voters. Still, the official in charge of the referendum vote counting told The Guardian she had “no concerns” about disruptions, and early reports suggest voters are “turning out in good numbers and good humor,” with one voter calling the atmosphere “friendly.”

The historic vote marks the first time in British history that 16- and 17-year-olds can cast their ballot, and plenty of young voters turned up before the school day began. There have been older first-time voters too — with 97% of Scotland’s electorate registered to make a yes-or-no choice in the referendum, political apathy has been cast aside for the vote. Excluding undecided voters, the latest Ipsos Mori poll shows a slight strengthening of the No lead – 53% to 47% in the Yes camp. Still, this poll also shows that 4% of voters are still undecided as some Scots turned up at polling stations only to decide to return in a few hours. That means both sides of the debate are continuing to campaign for votes.

“I’ve watched all the debates but you get no answers,” Angela Colquhoun, a 41-year-old nursing auxiliary voting in the referendum, told The Guardian. “People are scared about what’s going to happen. They might vote no to stick with the known, but that’s not a good enough reason.”

On Wednesday evening, it wasn’t just party leaders and Scottish activists trying to make their voices heard. People around the world took to Twitter ahead of the referendum – from Scottish tennis leader Andy Murray, who boosted the Yes campaign by criticizing “no campaign negativity,” to U.S. President Barack Obama urging the U.K. to remain “strong, robust and united.”

2,609 polling places are open Thursday and will close at 10 p.m. local time, or 5 p.m. ET. Anyone still in line at this time will be allowed to cast their vote, but counting will begin almost immediately. Votes from some of the more remote regions of Scotland – particularly islands off the coast – will be collected by helicopters and boats, but bad weather could delay the receipt of these ballot boxes. Recounts will only be allowed at a local level if there are concerns about the voting process. Results from the first local authorities will start rolling in at 2 a.m. local time, but the final announcement is expected between 6:30 and 7:30 local time Friday morning.

TIME Scotland

Brits Outside Scotland Angry They Don’t Get a Say in Union’s Future

Sir Bob Geldof speaks to members of the public and supporters of the 'Better Together' campaign from a raised stage in Trafalgar Square on September 15, 2014 in London.
Musician Bob Geldof speaks to members of the public and supporters of the Better Together campaign at Trafalgar Square in London on Sept. 15, 2014 Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

The future of the U.K. lies in the hands of just 8.3% of its population. Is that fair?

As Scotland prepares to vote in Thursday’s momentous independence referendum, the buzz is growing. If the pro-independence Yes campaign wins, the U.K.’s political map will be forever changed. But those watching from outside Scotland — both expats and non-Scottish Brits — have lamented the fact that the future of the U.K. lies in the hands of just 8.3% of its population.

Any British or E.U. citizen ages 16 or over currently residing in Scotland was eligible to register for the vote. Around 15% of the electorate (650,000 people) were born outside Scotland but are now living there — J.K. Rowling is a famous example. But the 59 million U.K. citizens living outside Scotland — who include more than 800,000 Scots who moved south of the border at some point before September 2014 — are not permitted to vote in Thursday’s referendum. And many aren’t happy about it.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph last week, eminent BBC broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Paxman called it a “real scandal” that “in this union of supposed equals, only one side gets to vote on whether the union continues.” Paxman, who is one-quarter Scottish, points out that the resentment of Westminster politics driving support for the pro-independence campaign is not confined to Scotland. There are plenty of British citizens, he writes, especially those from outside London, “who think the Westminster Parliament is remote and unrepresentative. Some of them believe that it is not just unattractive but also absurd. They’re just not being offered a chance to say so.”

Paxman isn’t the only one angry at not getting a say. In January 2012, Labour Party politician Baroness Symons called for U.K.-wide participation on the question of Scottish independence, which she said would be “the most important constitutional issue to face any of us in our lifetime.” She argued that England, Wales and Northern Ireland had an “equal right” to make their views known on the matter, because the breakup of the union would “affect all of us.” On the same day in Scotland, Elaine Murray, a Labour Party member of the Scottish parliament, made the case for Scots living outside Scotland to be able to vote. She said it was “hugely unfair” that the franchise would not be extended to Scotland’s expats in other parts of the U.K. and around the world, who number roughly 1 million, or a fifth of Scotland’s population.

Lord Wallace, advocate general for Scotland and former deputy first minister of Scotland, rejected these arguments, despite agreeing that a breakup of the union would be “very grievous.” He insisted that “whether or not Scotland should leave the United Kingdom is a matter for Scotland.” Looking to the U.K. political history for similar cases, Wallace noted that the Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum in 1973 set a precedent for allowing only those residents in one part of the U.K. to vote on that part’s sovereignty.

Bruce Crawford, Scotland’s minister for government strategy, also noted that the principle that referendums should be determined by residency was “internationally accepted.” In fact, only two of 11 referendums in the U.K. since 1973 have involved the whole of the union. Lord Wallace also warned that relationships within the union would suffer if Scotland felt it was being prevented from achieving independence by other parts of the U.K. Christian Allard, a French-born Scottish Nationalist Party member of parliament, told Reuters: “It’s a new kind of nationalism … It is about where you live and where you decide and choose to live and have children and grandchildren.”

Though many outside Scotland may wish they could have a say in the future of the union, the Scottish government chose an electorate with a physical stake in the country’s future. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has called the referendum “an act of self-determination.” And given the record level 97% of Scotland’s electorate registered to vote, it’s clearly an act the country’s residents are taking very seriously.

TIME Scotland

Scotland’s Health Care System Becomes Key Referendum Issue

Britons are fiercely protective of their country’s taxpayer-funded National Health Service (NHS). A 2013 poll showed that, for many, it was a bigger source of pride than the armed forces or the Royal family. It is no surprise then that the future of the 66-year-old NHS has emerged as a major political flashpoint in the Scottish independence debate.

The pro-independence Yes campaign led by Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP) claims that Westminster is moving toward healthcare privatization, which “would mean automatic cuts for Scotland’s budget.” Pro-union leaders like former British finance minister Alistair Darling, who is leading the Better Together anti-independence campaign, say the Scottish nationalists are “scaremongering.” Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, another unionist, has vowed to “nail the SNP lies” about the potential privatization of the NHS.

So, who’s right, and what might happen to Scotland’s public hospitals and clinics after independence?

FUNDING SCOTLAND’S NHS

The NHS, though it might sound like one unified body, is in fact comprised of four independent health care systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland’s NHS operates under separate management, administration and political authority since it became devolved in 1999. Westminster gives Scotland a “block grant”, a lump sum to spend on all public services, including its healthcare. If public spending is raised or cut by policymakers in England, the block grant for Scotland increases or falls correspondingly. A convention called the Barnett formula automatically adjusts the amount of overall public expenditure allocated to Scotland to reflect any changes. Budgets for each branch of government spending, including the NHS, are determined not by Westminster but by the Scottish government, who decides how to split its block grant between public services.

THE IMPACT OF PRIVATIZATION

The SNP has raised concerns over reforms to NHS England involving the private sector, which they predict will eventually lead to less public spending and hence a smaller grant for Scotland. It is true that the British government, under the leadership of a Conservative Party-led coalition, is offering up more contracts to private providers to deliver services, but the NHS continues to be funded only by public money. Under the current system, it is the amount of healthcare spending, rather than the balance of public and private provision, that affects Scotland’s overall block grant.

However, both the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government and the opposition Labour Party have committed to continued austerity measures in the U.K. Any future cuts in overall public spending in England would impact Scotland’s economy. But the Barnett formula ensures any moves by Westminster to increase private sector involvement in the NHS won’t automatically lead to budget cuts in Scotland. On Tuesday, the three main U.K. political parties pledged to preserve the Barnett formula, but the U.K. Treasury will continue to hold the power to change it at will. This worries SNP leaders, who have accused the U.K. government of planning to do just that.

THE IMPACT OF AUSTERITY

“We’ve protected Scotland’s NHS from [Conservative] cuts, and with independence we can ensure that it is never again under threat from Westminster’s dangerous obsession with austerity,” said Scotland’s Health Secretary Alex Neil in August. Yet an independent report from The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that the Scottish government has actually brought in bigger cuts to the NHS than England,despite suffering less from austerity measures and enjoying higher public expenditure per capita (thanks to the Barnett formula). Spending in real terms on Scotland’s NHS will have dropped by 1% between 2010—2016 compared with a 4% increase in England — and that’s with the Scottish government setting spending levels.

Scotland’s pattern of spending less on its NHS is not just a reaction to the financial crisis, according to another study from the Nuffield Trust. When Westminster decided to increase NHS spending in the 2000s (and consequently giving more money to Scotland’s block grant), Scotland did not increase NHS spending in real terms as much as England did from 2001 to 2013. The study estimates that that in choosing not to pass its extra funding to the NHS, Scotland had around £900m to spend on other services. Much of that likely went toward social welfare, instead: Scotland is the only country within the U.K. that provides free personal and nursing care to those aged 65 and over. Indeed, the SNP’s White Paper for Independence highlights plans to look beyond the NHS for healthcare solutions that depend “on breaking the cycle of poverty, educational under-attainment, worklessness, poor mental wellbeing, and, through these, preventable ill-health.”

THE ROAD AHEAD

The impact on healthcare of Thursday’s referendum will largely depend on what future governments, either in Westminster or in Scotland, decide to do with their finances. Should Scotland vote yes to independence it could struggle to end austerity measures and support a national healthcare service, an IFS report suggested, because of the possibility of an eventual fall in oil revenues and an aging population. But if it remains part of the U.K., Scotland’s overall budget will continue to be determined by a Westminster government that has committed to further austerity measures. Both sides of the independence campaign have argued that only they can save the country’s health service. But whatever the outcome of Thursday’s referendum, it’s not clear that either side will be able to make good on that promise.

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