TIME Surgery

Paralyzed Man Walks Again After ‘Miracle’ Surgery

Polish doctors used cells from patient's nose to heal spinal injury

A man who was completely paralyzed from the waist down has learned to walk again after Polish doctors transplanted cells from the patient’s nose into the damaged part of his spine. This pioneering research offers hope for treatment to millions of people around the world with spinal cord injuries.

The patient, 38-year-old firefighter Darek Fidyka from Poland, was left with a completely severed spinal cord after being stabbed four years ago. His doctors had given him a less than 1% chance of recovery but thanks to revolutionary surgery carried out in 2012 Fidyka is now able to walk again with a frame. “It’s an incredible feeling, difficult to describe,” he recounts in a BBC documentary to be aired Tuesday “When it starts coming back, you feel as if you start living your life again, as if you are reborn.” Fidyka has been able to resume an independent life and is even able to drive a car.

The procedure was carried out by Polish surgeons in collaboration with British researchers at University College London. Professor Geoffrey Raisman, who led the U.K. research team, called the breakthrough “historic” and said what had been achieved was “more impressive than man walking on the moon.”

[BBC]

TIME Turkey

Why Turkey Changed Course on Kobani

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani on Oct. 19, 2014.
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani on Oct. 19, 2014. Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

The NATO ally announced on Monday that it would let Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross its border with Syria to join the fight against ISIS

Turkey’s announcement on Monday that it will help Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross its border to fight jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) appeared to signal a major shift in Ankara’s attitude towards the fight against ISIS. Until then, Turkey had refused to allow Iraqi Kurdish forces to travel across its border to join the fight taking place in the besieged town of Kobani, just a few kilometers to the south. It has now dipped its toe, albeit indirectly, into the battle – and analysts believe pressure from the United States is likely behind the move.

“Turkey has been resisting pressure to cooperate more closely with the U.S.-led coalition, but at the end of the day, the realities do assert themselves,” says Fadi Hakura, head of the Turkey project at London think-tank Chatham House. Turkey’s reluctance to assist Kurdish fighters in the battle in Kobani – which has been going on for over a month – is rooted in its fraught relationship with the country’s own Kurdish political movement. The Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., NATO and the European Union, waged a 30-year campaign against the Turkish state to try to secure political rights and self-determination for Kurds in Turkey. Ankara’s view is that the Syrian Kurds fighting ISIS across the border under the banner of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) are little more than an extension of the PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted on Sunday as saying “the PYD is for us, equal to the PKK. It is a terror organization.” Hakura says close links between the two groups help explain Ankara’s refusal to help Syrian Kurds push back ISIS advances, since Turkey fears the potential creation of a powerful Kurdish fighting force that would straddle the Turkish-Syrian border.

Though a peace process between Turkey and the PKK began to develop in 2013, it has come increasingly under threat in recent weeks. Hakura says one major reason for Turkey’s “abrupt reversal” to allow fighters into Kobani is that “the Turkish government does not want its peace negotiations with the PKK to falter due to the developments in Kobani.” But Aaron Stein, associate fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, says that Turkey’s announcement on Monday should not be seen as a change in policy at all, since Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated the apparent threat the PYD poses to the region. He said that like ISIS, the PYD “aim to have control over a certain part of Syria” and as long as it holds these ambitions, Turkey would not support them.

“This recent decision is more an outcome of Turkish isolation, rather than Turkish inclusion,” says Stein, who believes Turkey was “terrified” of international isolation and “left with no choice” by the actions of the U.S.-led coalition. Turkey had opposed U.S. arms transfers to Kurdish fighters in Kobani, but the U.S. went ahead on Sunday night and air-dropped weapons and ammunition to soldiers in the area. According to Stein, “the U.S. is now firmly driving this aspect of policy. Whether you agree with the policy or not, we’re seeing definitive outcomes” of the continued air strikes and the overnight air drops, which seem to have pushed ISIS onto the defensive. Hakura also highlighted the impact of mounting pressure on Turkey, saying that since Turkey is a member of NATO and the U.S. is its main source of arms, it could no longer try to block U.S. plans in Syria and Iraq. As the U.S. began to coordinate more closely with the Syrian PYD fighters on the ground, “Turkey felt a strong desire to intervene to balance the dynamics and not be isolated.”

The strategic impact of Turkey’s decision remains to be seen, since it is not yet clear how many Iraqi Kurdish fighters will end up crossing the border to help the fight in Kobani. In any case, officials say the ultimate outcome of the besieged town is unlikely to change the course of what will be a long, protracted war against ISIS, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stating on Oct. 12, “Kobani does not define the strategy of the coalition.” But as Hakura points out “the fall of Kobani could be seen as a psychological setback” for those who have been fighting ISIS in past weeks. And as the U.S.-led coalition has no doubt been hoping, Turkey’s new position may well make it easier to secure Kobani, a town which holds – at the very least – considerable symbolic value in the fight against ISIS.

Read next: Turkey Will Help Iraqi Kurds Join Fight Against ISIS in Syria

TIME isis

How to Financially Starve ISIS

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A fighter from the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) waves a flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

Air strikes will help but to ruin the extremist organization the U.S.-led coalition will have to cut off ISIS's sources of funding

The U.S.-led air assault in Iraq and Syria on the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria(ISIS) is just one front in the battle being waged against ISIS. The U.S. Treasury recently confirmed plans to try to bankrupt the militant group by targeting its oil businesses and imposing sanctions on those financing them. But how easy will it be to financially ruin a group now considered by analysts to be the best-funded terrorist organization in recent history?

“Like all organizations, money matters to ISIS,” says Fawaz Gerges, the Emirates chair in Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies at the London School of Economics. “Napoleon once said ‘An army marches on its stomach’ and even ISIS needs to feed and arm its soldiers, to provide for their families. If you follow the trail of money and starve ISIS financially, you begin the process of degrading and ultimately paralyzing it.”

Yet following this trail of money is difficult. Experts speaking to TIME say hard figures are difficult to come by, partly because of a lack of independent researchers and journalists in the area. ISIS also deals mainly in cash and operates outside the legitimate channels that can be traced by the Treasury, says Valérie Marcel, a Middle East energy and resources expert at London-based think-tank Chatham House. As a result, estimates of ISIS’s daily revenue vary between $1 million and $3 million a day. Gerges says that ISIS has estimated funds of tens of millions of dollars, and that in the last few months the group has reportedly tried to limit its spending as much as possible to counter the coalition’s efforts to cut off its funding.

As ISIS has grown in size and taken control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, its sources of income have also shifted. Justin Dargin, a Middle East energy specialist based at the University of Oxford, says that “while funding from wealthy Gulf patrons assisted the group’s early rise, currently individual donations are not of major importance” since ISIS has developed more independent sources of income. David Butter, a Chatham House expert in the politics and economy of the Middle East, agrees, noting that ISIS benefits from being far less reliant on funds from abroad than other Islamist and Salafist jihadist groups, who made themselves overly dependent on the one-off nature of such fundraising. In fact, experts say one major difference between ISIS and other jihadist groups is ISIS’s more pragmatic outlook. Whereas al-Qaeda was more focused on setting up cells to finance anti-Western terrorist operations, ISIS has concentrated on expanding its area of control, taking hold of natural resources and commercial centers, as well as tens of thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition.

In June of this year, ISIS seized more territory in Northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second-largest city. It declared itself the “Islamic State” and developed revenue streams more typically associated with a government than a jihadist group. Though it’s difficult to establish how well ISIS is running the areas under its control, Paul Rogers, a global security consultant to Oxford Research Group, says that information from social media suggests that “ISIS seem quite competent to run things in Syria” and most areas seem to be functioning reasonably well. Since ISIS has continued to provide services like water and electricity, Gerges says the group has been able to impose taxes on farmers, retail businesses and even fuel. He adds that we should not underestimate the importance of this “social income” in both Iraq and Syria, since ISIS “have been able to generate sources of income to run the provinces under their control and also to generate extra income to wage their battles.”

Yet while ISIS might attempt to act like a state, much of its money is brought in by criminal tactics, including extortion, theft and plundering. For instance, senior U.S. government official Brett McGurk told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July that even before ISIS took control of Mosul, he and other U.S. diplomatic and military officials who had visited the city shortly before it fell to ISIS had been concerned about Mosul “as it had become the primary financial hub” for ISIS, “generating nearly $12 million per month in revenues through extortion and smuggling rackets.” Hostage-taking has also played a part in filling ISIS coffers. According to an investigative report from The New York Times, kidnapping Europeans has earned al-Qaeda and its affiliates at least $125 million in ransom payments in the past five years alone. Although ISIS formally split from al-Qaeda in February, the group has continued the practice and both Gerges and Marcel have sources confirming that ISIS has received large sums of money from citizens of Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Syria in exchange for hostages. As well as Western hostages, the “kidnapping of locals is a big business”, says Gerges, and has generated tens of millions of dollars for ISIS and other militant groups like al-Nusra front, the branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria.

But the majority of ISIS’s revenue appears to come from the territory it controls, much of which is “very rich agriculturally”, says Rogers. For instance, the United Nations estimates that land in Iraq under ISIS control accounts for up to 40 percent of the country’s annual production of wheat. Crucially, the militant group also holds a number of oil fields in both Iraq and Syria and analysts speaking to TIME estimate that the daily revenue from ISIS oil production lies between $1 and $3 million a day. Though this is barely a fraction of the global oil trade, the income is very useful in funding ISIS’s soldiers, who number between 20,000 and 31,500 according to the CIA. As ISIS took hold of more territory in Iraq and Syria in June, it gained more opportunities to sell both crude oil and refined products through well-established smuggling networks. “There are a lot of grey market buyers of crude in the region and a large network of individuals that benefit financially. It’s harder to dismantle because – whether it’s in the KRG [Kurdish Regional Government], in Turkey or in Iran – border guards and municipal authorities have to be paid well enough and given incentives to crack down,” says Marcel.

If the U.S. and its allies continue to bomb ISIS’s oil facilities, however, the group will begin struggling to fund itself. The Paris-based International Energy Agency said in a report released Tuesday that the aerial campaign has brought ISIS oil production down to around 20,000 barrels per day, from a high of around 70,000 a couple of months ago. If oil installations continue to be hit, ISIS will not be able to use its own military vehicles that run on the diesel and gas produced by small, local refineries. Yet it is the civilian population – between 6 and 8 million people in ISIS-controlled territory – that will most acutely feel the effects of the air strikes as winter approaches. The local population relies heavily on diesel for heating, agricultural machinery, bakeries and generators. The U.K.-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has already reported that the air strikes have led to an increase in the price of diesel and petrol. Butter says that if the ISIS economy is “degraded” by the bombings, there is likely to be a nationwide fuel and electricity crisis, as well as agricultural shortages exacerbated by the lighter than normal rainfall in 2013. In addition, Marcel points out that ISIS “depends to a large extent on the willingness of the population to have them there. In the battle to win hearts and minds, you do have to provide heating fuel and petrol.”

But if the group is to lose this battle any time soon, the coalition will have to succeed in cutting all the strands of ISIS’s vast financial web. Until then, ISIS will likely remain a threat to the region and beyond.

TIME Turkey

Turkey Will Help Iraqi Kurds Join Fight Against ISIS in Syria

TURKEY-SYRIA-KURDS-CONFLICT
Kurdish people watch the Syrian town of Kobane from the Turkish border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on Oct. 19, 2014. Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

A shift in Ankara

Turkey said Monday that it will help Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross its border to fight militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) who have besieged a city in Syria.

“We are helping peshmerga forces cross into Kobani,” the BBC quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying in a news conference. He didn’t give any further details.

Turkey has come under pressure to increase its support for the international coalition fighting ISIS, and the announcement represents a significant shift from Ankara. Until now, Turkey has refused to allow Kurdish fighters to cross into Syria because of links between Syrian Kurds and Turkey’s own separatist rebels. The announcement came just hours after the U.S. made multiple airdrops of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish forces in Kobani, who now appear to be gaining the upper hand against ISIS.

[BBC]

TIME ebola

Ebola Health Care Workers Face Hard Choices

A Doctors Without Borders health worker in protective clothing carries a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on Oct. 5, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia.
A Doctors Without Borders health worker in protective clothing carries a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on Oct. 5, 2014, in Paynesville, Liberia John Moore—Getty Images

The risks to doctors and nurses are never far from their minds

For Laura Duggan, going to Sierra Leone to care for patients with Ebola wasn’t so much a choice as a moral responsibility. “This is one of the biggest public-health emergencies of our time,” Duggan, a 34-year-old Irish nurse, told TIME as she prepares to leave London. “I’m trained to do this and there’s a great need. I couldn’t sit here and not go.”

Duggan had done her research, and knew the challenges: fatigue, long hot days spent working in sweltering biohazard suits, and the emotional toll of watching more than half her patients die no matter how heroic her efforts. But as for catching the disease itself, she wasn’t worried. Ebola is only spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. Duggan was confident that as long as she followed basic self-protection protocols, she would stay safe. But then, on Oct. 6, a nursing assistant in Madrid contracted Ebola from a priest who had recently returned from Sierra Leone. A week later, an American nurse treating a Liberian man in Dallas who died of Ebola also tested positive for the virus. Duggan’s partner, a Spaniard, pointed out that the Spanish nurse had been following the same rules, and still got sick. “He was getting a little nervous and saying, ‘Well, if she followed procedure and you’re saying you’ll follow procedure, then what happened? Why has she become infected?’” Duggan recalled. “That was my first little wobble and I kind of just went, Oh God.”

Despite pledges of support and widespread international concern, the Ebola epidemic in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is rapidly outpacing all efforts to contain it. As of Oct. 10, the number of cases had topped 8,399, with 4,033 deaths. With local populations of doctors and health care professionals cut down by disease and fear, and with those that remain overwhelmed, it is essential that their ranks be filled with international volunteers who can treat the ill and help prevent Ebola’s spread. But finding qualified doctors and nurses willing to face the risks, as well as repercussions back home, is “a challenge,” says Eric Talbert, the USA executive director for Emergency, an international medical organization that is setting up a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone. “There is a significant fear factor. They are putting their lives on the line for people they have not met. It’s a courageous ask.”

(PHOTOS: See How A Photographer Is Covering Ebola’s Deadly Spread)

Never has the need been so great, and it looked like it might be exacerbated Monday when health care workers in Liberia signaled they would strike to protest conditions and pay — although many workers ended up defying the call to strike).

Calling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a “tragedy not seen in modern times,” at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on Oct. 9, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma said, via video link, that his country would need 750 doctors and 3,000 nurses to treat the anticipated caseload.

As the numbers climb in West Africa, so too does the chance that more cases will be exported abroad, raising the likelihood that doctors and nurses around the world will find themselves faced with Ebola. “There is no doubt that we will see more cases of health workers getting sick” in West Africa, and those volunteers will have to go home for treatment, says Heather Etienne, a registered nurse from Texas who is on her way to Sierra Leone to work in an Emergency Ebola treatment center. So far, 416 health workers have been infected with Ebola in West Africa, and 233 have died, a sobering outcome. “You have to be comfortable with some amount of risk before doing something like this. You don’t have to be at peace with the idea of your death, but you shouldn’t be too uncomfortable with the concept either,” Etienne says.

(PHOTOS: Inside the Ebola Crisis: The Images That Moved Them Most)

Having the wrong people could be just as bad as — if not worse than — not having enough, Talbert says. Ideally, volunteers would be willing to commit to a length of time that would make their training and airfare expenses worthwhile. They should have experience in the region, says Talbert, “so they know what they are getting into,” and experience working with highly infectious diseases, “because making mistakes can be lethal.” And because the risk of burnout is so high, there needs to be enough workers to fill a continuously rotating roster. Health care workers in Ebola treatment centers work under extreme duress, sweltering under layers of protective plastic to take care of patients who have a high chance of dying. “It takes a physical and emotional toll. Nobody can do that for too long,” Talbert says.

Umar Ahmad, a 29-year-old junior doctor at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, who recently completed a three-month program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is ready to take up the challenge, but he is finding it hard to take a few months away from a full time job. “There are plenty of doctors that would volunteer, but the issue is, what it actually means is that you take a financial hit, a career hit,” Ahmad says. “For lots of people, they’ve got responsibilities and they can’t justify it.”

For Etienne, the nurse from Texas, getting time off wasn’t an issue. Even though many of her colleagues told her she was “insane” for going to Sierra Leone, her superiors were supportive. Her main concern is about what happens when she comes back. As a nurse, she well understands the fear and stigma brought on by Ebola. Upon her return she intends to observe an informal self-quarantine, staying away from her hospital for 21 days, the incubation period for Ebola. “Given how jittery everyone is these days, they don’t really need me at the patient desk, only to have someone say, ‘Oh, you just got back from Sierra Leone. Get me out of here!’” she says.

Clare Parsons, a 28-year-old doctor who is leaving for a one-month stint with the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership, an initiative of King’s Centre for Global Health in London, shares those concerns. Even if she displays none of the symptoms of Ebola, she is planning to lay low at home for a few weeks, just in case. “Obviously I don’t want to go gallivanting around London and be known as the person that spread [Ebola] all over the London Underground,” she says.

Duggan, the Irish nurse, finally decided to go through with her mission despite her concerns, and left on Oct. 13 to work with Doctors Without Borders for six weeks. She is still afraid, she said, but she keeps reminding herself to go back to the facts and follow the procedures. In the end, she said, nursing, wherever it is, “is my job, and something that I’ve been trained to do.” Experience in other international aid missions has taught her that international health workers can sometimes be a breed apart. “You have a very high concentration of people who are willing to make a sacrifice and put themselves at risk for the need of others,” she said.

If Ebola is to be defeated, she, and several thousand more like her, will have to join their ranks.

Read next: CDC Chief Urges U.S. Hospitals to ‘Think Ebola’

TIME ebola

Can Dogs (And Other Animals) Get Ebola?

A billboard warning against eating wild animals, seen in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 6, 2014.
A billboard warning against eating wild animals, seen in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 6, 2014. Ahmed Jallannzo—EPA

The proposed euthanization of a dog belonging to a Spanish nurse infected with Ebola prompts questions about whether animals can transmit Ebola to humans

The Ebola virus can be found across the animal kingdom, from bats and birds to pigs and porcupines. But there is a difference between having a disease and transmitting it to another animal—or another species. That’s at the heart of a controversial move by Spanish health authorities, who have obtained a court order to euthanize the dog belonging to a nurse who contracted the Ebola virus in Madrid, saying that available scientific knowledge suggests dogs can transmit the virus to humans. But how much do we know about which animals can catch and transmit the deadly virus?

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a news conference on Tuesday that “we know in rural areas of Africa, Ebola can infect mammals. In fact, that’s how it spreads, from probably bats to animals living in the forest, people hunting the animals.” Ebola has to date been found in many bush animals, including bush pigs, rodents, porcupines and forest-dwelling antelope. Any infected carcasses could spread the virus to hunters or to anyone who eats bush meat.

Dogs

To date, there is no documented case of Ebola spreading to people from dogs or dogs to people, and only one study, carried out by the CDC, looks at whether dogs can get Ebola at all. This research into the prevalence of Ebola-virus antibodies in dogs from regions of Gabon affected by the 2001–2002 outbreak showed that “dogs can be infected by Ebola virus” but exhibit no symptoms and the infection eventually clears.

The researchers concluded that “dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola outbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks,” but they did not test their hypothesis that human infection could occur through licking, biting or grooming. Instead, the study assumed dogs would transmit the infection in the same way as other animals observed in experiments; those animals excreted viral particles (in saliva, urine, feces) for a short period before the virus was cleared. David Moore, an expert in infectious diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that since no dogs showed symptoms of the Ebola virus “there is absolutely no evidence to support a role for dogs in transmission.”

The study also suggests that differences in behavior and diet of pet dogs may alter risks in Ebola transmission. Whereas most dogs in Western Europe are fed dog food, many of the dogs studied in Gabon scavenged for their food, eating small dead animals that could have exposed them to the virus.

Bats

Both the World Health Organization and recent reports have suggested that the 2014 outbreak of Ebola can be traced to fruit bats in the West Africa region. Guinea, where bat soup is a local delicacy, has reportedly banned the sale and consumption of bat meat since the start of the outbreak.

Primates

Non-human primates, like monkeys, are also suspected carriers of the disease and, as in humans, the Ebola virus can kill them. Research has shown gorillas and chimpanzees suffer massive population declines during Ebola outbreaks, with the virus killing an estimated 5,000 gorillas in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo from 2002—2003.

Birds

There is limited data about the prevalence of Ebola in birds but a 2002 study from Purdue University found that the Ebola virus closely resembles the structure of several bird viruses. This means birds may be able to spread the virus to humans. Head researcher David Sanders said “while bird transmission of Ebola is by no means certain, the resemblance among all these viruses should encourage health officials to be on guard for it.”

Pigs

Until 2009 no one knew that pigs could carry Ebola, because they show no symptoms of the disease. Three years after a case in the Philippines showed Ebola transmission between pigs and farmers, Canadian scientists found that apparently healthy pigs could pass on the most deadly strain of Ebola (the Zaire-Ebola virus) to monkeys without direct contact. In pigs, the virus mainly affects the lungs and airways, which means they can spread the virus through the air via small droplets (this does not mean Ebola is suddenly an airborne virus like SARS). However, Gary Kobinger who led the study said “we still don’t know if pigs are playing any role in the natural transmission or ecology of Ebola virus in Africa.”

Other domestic animals

Various studies carried out in the 1990s found that some animals (including guinea pigs, goats and horses) showed no or mild symptoms when infected with Ebola during experiments. The virus has never been observed in these species in the wild, but like pigs and dogs, these animals do not appear to get ill or die from Ebola.

Relatively little research has been carried out into the existence of Ebola in many other animals. It is thought that domestic cats are probably immune to it since the virus has not yet been found in any wild felines in Africa.

Should we worry?
Scientists have yet to confirm Ebola’s natural host—the animal that naturally holds the infection and is a primary source for the spread of the disease—but transmitting the virus is a different issue. Since “lethal disease has only thus far been seen in humans and primates and a few species of wild animals, it would appear that the main route of transmission is human to human contact,” says John Blackwell, President of the British Veterinary Association, an organization that often issues advice when animal-related diseases could affect the general public.

He adds that the course of disease in dogs and their role in transmission is not yet known, but “it would be a sensible precaution” to observe strict quarantine measures for animals in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of Ebola. As the Madrid nurse and her husband continue to campaign to save their dog from being put down, it remains to be seen what precautions the Spanish government will take in order to contain the spread of the Ebola virus.

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]

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