TIME Scotland

Scotland Is Ready for Independence Says Actor Alan Cumming

Nicola Sturgeon Continues Health Campaign
Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert —Getty Images Scottish actor Alan Cumming joins the pro-Scottish independence campaign in Glasgow on Sept. 8, 2014, to lend his support in the run-up to the forthcoming referendum

NYC-based Scottish actor writes passionate New York Times op-ed explaining why Scotland will be just fine without the U.K.

Alan Cumming, like every other Scot who’s voting Yes, is tired of being picked on by the English. But that’s not what Thursday’s vote is about, Cumming wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday.

The 49-year-old actor and novelist, famous for his roles in movies like Goldeneye and Spy Kids II, penned a passionate essay in which he lays out why he has been a vocal participant in the Yes campaign, why Scotland will be just fine without England’s support, and why some of his compatriots are afraid of breaking away from the U.K.

“There has never been anything so politically important to me,” Cumming wrote.

“This is not about hating the English. It’s about democracy and self-determination,” wrote the Good Wife star, who took a break from appearing in Cabaret on Broadway last week to fly to Glasgow for a campaign event.

Cumming further explained that Scotland is different (and better) than its southern counterparts with respect to issues like higher education and health care, and wrote: “We no longer feel at the mercy of a privileged elite hundreds of miles away.”

The political fearmongering that Scots are being exposed to (being told they cannot join the European Union or won’t be allowed to use the sterling as a currency, for example) confirms what many Scottish think, Cumming said, that Westminster sees them as “stupid and easily bullied.”

Contrary to the world’s perception of the desire to break off as a sudden phenomenon, Cumming concluded, Scots have been considering independence for a long time. “After 16 years of devolution, we don’t need training wheels anymore,” he wrote. “We can go it alone.”

[NYT]

TIME Ukraine

Moscow Welcomes More Autonomy for Pro-Russian Separatists in Ukraine

Petro Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Andrew Kravchenko—AP Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, talks with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev, Ukraine, on Sept. 10, 2014. Poroshenko promised on that day to introduce to parliament as early as next week a bill that would offer greater autonomy to rebellious regions in the pro-Russia eastern regions, where separatists have been battling government troops for almost five months

But some Kiev politicians criticize the new legislation as unpatriotic

Russia has welcomed a new Ukrainian law granting autonomy to separatist-held eastern regions as “a step in the right direction,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“We hope that all provisions of the law will be implemented responsibly,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, according to the Journal. Moscow then warned that attempts “to cancel it or change its essence will renew the confrontation in the southeast.”

Ukraine’s parliament passed the legislation on Tuesday, together with a law granting amnesty to many of the pro-Russian rebels involved in the five-month insurgency in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has defended the law, which gives the two regions three years of virtual self-governance, guarantees their right to use the Russian language and grants them increased control over their economies.

However, many politicians in Kiev are unhappy, saying that the move is unpatriotic. Poroshenko’s leading political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Prime Minister, said she would challenge the new legislation in court.

“It is still not too late to go back to a pro-Ukrainian, patriotic position and veto these two laws,” she said, according to the Journal.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian President is expected to request military and economic assistance from the U.S., as he addresses the Congress and meets with President Barack Obama. The Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Hugh Williamson, has urged the U.S. Administration to press Poroshenko’s government to “meet its obligations to protect all civilians” in return.

“Russia’s role in the conflict is no reason for silence on violations by Ukrainian government forces,” Williamson said in a statement Thursday. “Ukraine’s closest friends have the most effective voices to speak with the Ukrainian leadership about human rights concerns, and the Obama administration shouldn’t miss this opportunity.”

HRW has documented serious violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law during the conflict, in which over 2,000 people were killed and over 3,000 injured.

[WSJ]

TIME ebola

Ebola Crisis Puts Sierra Leone on Three-Day National Lockdown

Ebola Timeline Of A Crisis
Youssouf Bah—AP Medical personnel inside a clinic take care of Ebola patients in the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone, on July 27, 2014

But some experts fear such measures actually do more harm than good

Sierra Leone has begun a three-day nationwide lockdown as it struggles to contend with the Ebola virus’s unprecedented, lethal thrust across West Africa.

Citizens of Sierra Leone, among the nations worst hit by the epidemic, will be banned from leaving their homes from Thursday to Sunday, the Guardian reports. During that time, health workers will travel from house to house, identifying cases, and about 21,000 police and soldiers will be deployed to keep people off the streets.

Officials in Sierra Leone have said that the lockdown would help contain the aggressive Ebola virus, which is spread through contact with bodily fluids. The disease has so far killed 2,453 people across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday projected the outbreak’s toll could reach 20,000.

However, some medical officials have drawn parallels between the lockdown and the quarantines imposed elsewhere in West Africa, including in a Liberian slum where similar restrictions fueled riots and have since been lifted. Food shortages and the abandonment of sick neighbors are other possible consequences, they fear.

“It has been our experience that lockdowns and quarantines do not help control Ebola as they end up driving people underground and jeopardising the trust between people and health providers,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. “This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further.”

The group also expressed concern that the roving health workers would not be equipped to accurately diagnose Ebola during the home checks and that, even when cases are identified, Sierra Leone still lacks the resources to care for more sick people.

The WHO says that about $1 billion is needed to tackle Ebola — but nations, organizations and donors have in total pledged just $838 million to fighting the crisis, and just $155 million of that sum has in fact been delivered, TIME reported on Wednesday.

The U.S government, which has pledged $500 million of that total sum, said on Tuesday that it would also set up a command center in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, sending in about 5,000 members of the armed forces.

In a speech at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s headquarters in Atlanta, U.S. President Barack Obama said the Ebola epidemic had “profound security implications,” calling it “a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic.”

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said his organization was preparing to launch a ground mission in the affected countries. The U.S. has also circulated a Security Council draft resolution that instructs member states to send support, including medical personnel, to West Africa, the New York Times says.

TIME India

A Border Standoff and Free Tibet Protests Mar Xi Jinping’s Arrival in Delhi

INDIA-CHINA-TIBET-POLITICS-PROTEST
Chandan Khanna—AFP/Getty Images Indian police try to prevent exiled Tibetan youths from advancing as they protest against a visit to India by Chinese President Xi Jinping outside a hotel in New Delhi on Sept. 18, 2014

"There is an ongoing situation," an Indian army official tells media

Updated at 5.31 a.m. EST

Chinese and Indian troops remain locked in a border confrontation that shows little sign of abating, even as Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off his three-day visit to India on Wednesday.

Indian news channel NDTV reported that a large number of Chinese troops crossed about 5 km into the Chumar sector of India’s Ladakh region. The reported incursion prompted India to send three battalions to bolster its border presence, less than 24 hours after a meeting between the two countries to diffuse the issue.

“There is an ongoing situation,” an army headquarters official told Reuters.

According to local media, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought up the incursion in his meeting with Xi on Thursday morning, but no details have emerged.

Relations between India and China appear to have remained positive despite the long-simmering border conflict, with Xi and Modi signing 12 pacts and China promising investments to the tune of $20 billion over the next five years.

“India and China must carry forward friendship and deepen respect,” Xi said Thursday in New Delhi, where his arrival was marred by vehement protests against the Chinese government’s rule in Tibet.

Tibet has been another historic bone of contention between the two countries, with China unhappy about India’s 1959 decision to grant the Dalai Lama asylum.

In a joint press conference after their 90-minute meeting, both leaders spoke of the need and desire to resolve the border issue quickly while carrying forward their rapidly expanding economic partnership.

“There should be peace in our relations and on the borders. If this happens we can realize the true potential of our relations,” said Modi in Hindi, stressing the need to clarify the Line of Actual Control that both countries perceive differently.

Xi, who spoke after Modi, attributed the border issues to long-standing historical disagreements, but said the two nations have made “steady progress” in resolving them and will continue to do so. He said China is determined to work with India to settle the border issue as soon as possible.

New deals signed between the two leaders include major Chinese investment in Indian railways, industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharashtra and potential civil nuclear cooperation. “China and India will act as twin engines in spearheading economic growth in the region,” Xi said.

The Chinese president also outlined plans for cultural exchanges between the two countries, covering areas like education, culture, tourism and film.

TIME portfolio

James Nachtwey: 30 Years in TIME

To celebrate James Nachtwey’s 30 years as a contract photographer for TIME, we have organized an exhibit of 54 layouts that have appeared in the magazine featuring his work from Chechnya to Somalia and from Afghanistan to Burma, along with a series of his powerful, previously unpublished photographs. Below, James Nachtwey, and TIME’s Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs, reflect on the relationship between photographer and publication.

Any worthwhile, long-term relationship is built on integrity, trust, caring and a common purpose, and those are the elements that have characterized my 30-year relationship with TIME. Working in the field in difficult circumstances, there are many things to be concerned about, from logistics to survival, but the ultimate goal is to get the story right. Knowing that the people who publish the pictures are just as motivated by that as I am means everything. Every image on these walls is the result of teamwork. I happened to be the point man, but the support, guidance and inspiration I have received for so many years have made this work possible, and I want to thank all my colleagues at TIME from the bottom of my heart. — James Nachtwey

unnamed-1

TIME’s exhibition at Photoville.

James Nachtwey has spent his life in the places people most want to avoid: war zones and refugee camps, the city flattened by an earthquake or a terrorist attack, the village swallowed by a flood. A Massachusetts native and graduate of Dartmouth, Jim worked in the merchant marine and as a truck driver while he taught himself photography. His assignments for TIME, where he is in his 30th year, have taken him around the world multiple times. There is a particular art to capturing the places where pain presides. Pain is the most private experience, but its causes demand public accounting. It’s exactly when you want to look the other way that Jim’s images bring you back, command attention and invite understanding. — Nancy Gibbs

James Nachtwey: 30 Years in TIME runs from September 18 to 28, 2014 and is part of Photoville, an outdoor photography exhibition in Brooklyn, New York.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues. Nancy Gibbs is Managing Editor of TIME.

TIME Scotland

Tennis Champ Andy Murray is Backing Scottish Independence

Britain Scotland Celebrities
Sang Tan—AP In this Friday, June 27, 2014, file photo, Andy Murray of Britain gestures between points as he plays Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in their men's singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon.

As polling opens, Murray uses Twitter to urge a Yes vote

Game, set and match to Scottish independence? Hours before polling stations opened in Scotland this morning, Scottish tennis star Andy Murray finally revealed his support for the Yes campaign, saying that the negative campaign tactics of the No camp had swung his views. “Huge day for Scotland today!” he tweeted to 2.71 million followers.

For much of the referendum campaign, the pro-union Better Together camp has been guilty of complacency, assuming that its hefty poll lead was solid. In the final weeks ahead of the vote, as the polls narrowed to within touching distance and then narrowed again, that complacency has turned to panic. The panic has revealed how little the No campaign understands about why it has lost ground.

In order to try to shore up support for the union, Better Together dispatched the very people that have helped push voters into the Yes camp—politicians from the U.K. parliament in Westminster—to trot out exactly the arguments that, if polls are right, have failed to convince at least half of Scotland.

So Scottish voters have been treated to a visit from Prime Minister David Cameron, who came close to tears in begging for them to preserve the union. (Inevitably voices in the Yes camp suggested he was crying because there will be calls for his resignation if Scotland goes.)

Cameron’s predecessor, Gordon Brown, a Scot, was also wheeled out to make a last-minute plea for unity. And the Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, was forced to abandon a campaigning stroll in Edinburgh amid heckling, though not before he “made an ill-judged stop in front of a Supercuts hair salon, which prompted a cry of: ‘Supercuts, that’s what you get from the Westminster government’,” as the Daily Telegraph reported.

To be fair, the No campaign has always been at a disadvantage. Its leaders just didn’t understand that fact. All they had on their side was sober-sided logic and the law of unintended consequences that states an independent Scotland won’t be anything like the utopia its proponents suggest.

Supporters of independence have so much more than that: positivity—they get to vote Yes, not No—and romance, excitement, the shimmering chimera of something beautiful and self-created, plus some really powerful heroes. The most potent champion of the union is not even Scottish: it’s the English author J.K. Rowling, who is a longtime Scottish resident, and whose intervention earned her some trolling by so-called “cybernats” (technologically enabled, if emotionally restricted, Scottish nationalists).

The Yes campaign, by contrast, has been able to summon up a whole range of Scottish figures in its support, from the heavily mythologized “Braveheart” William Wallace and Robert the Bruce to the best-ever James Bond and a Hollywood actor who probably should have been James Bond.

Andy Murray—Olympic tennis gold medallist 2012, Wimbledon winner 2013—may not only be the last famous Scot to come out for independence, but the one with the greatest power to sway wavering voters, partly because, as his tweet made clear, he too wavered before deciding how he would vote if he could. (He isn’t a Scottish resident so doesn’t have a ballot.)

Murray also perfectly encapsulates the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. that is to be tested today. He didn’t like it when the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond tried to use his Wimbledon victory to further the cause of independence, but he may have liked his coverage by the London-based British media even less. For years, these news organizations gave him a hard time for being, in their terms, too Scottish: undemonstrative, occasionally dour. Then he started winning and the same media tried to colonize him.

Now he may have delivered an ace.

TIME Scotland

Scotland Decides Its Fate Today

Voting in the historic independence referendum has begun. Crucially, some 8% of voters remain undecided

Scotland must decide Thursday whether to become independent from the U.K., with last-minute opinion polls putting the outcome of the referendum on a knife-edge.

Voting booths are now open and ballots will be cast at 2,608 polling stations until 10 p.m. local time. Results are expected to trickle in overnight with a final announcement at around 7 a.m. on Friday morning.

If Scotland votes yes, it will be the 61st territory to gain its independence from the U.K., which once boasted an empire upon which the sun never set.

“When people go into the polling booths tomorrow they are going to vote for … that vision of more prosperous but also a more just society,” Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, leading the Yes campaign, told supporters on Wednesday. “That’s what’s going to motivate people in the polling stations tomorrow.”

Of Scotland’s population of 5.3 million, a whopping 97% of those eligible to vote have registered, a sign of just how galvanized opinions over the 307-year-old union have become.

The voting age has been lowered to 16 for the first time in modern British history. Residence in Scotland, rather than Scottish nationality or birth, is the voting criteria, and other British, E.U. or commonwealth nationals residing north of the border can participate.

“This morning in Edinburgh it’s really quite tense,” Jan Eichhorn, a social policy expert at the University of Edinburgh, tells TIME. “There’s a feeling of entering an exam and needing to do the right thing.”

The latest YouGov opinion poll showed 52% of Scottish residents were against independence. Crucially, though, more than half-a-million voters are undecided.

Swing voters may be mulling the raft of extra powers Scotland has been offered if it rejects outright independence.

The No campaign, reeling from falling behind in opinion polls for the first time earlier this month, has dangled to Scots the carrot of increased control over health, education, employment, the economy, transport and infrastructure — but crucially not over foreign policy, defense or pensions.

“It’s a major transfer of power,” former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told CNN on Wednesday. “Never in the history of the island have we seen so much decentralization of powers from Westminster to one nation in the United Kingdom.”

Brown, who was born in the Scottish lowlands town of Giffnock, said that as a result “there has been a distinct movement” back to the No campaign, which he is spearheading. Independence “doesn’t make sense,” he added.

Scotland boasts just 8% of the U.K. population but 30% of its landmass. Scottish residents already receive more money per capita in terms of welfare spending than other Brits, but many in the Yes camp believe Scots would fare even better with independence, largely due to North Sea oil.

However, according to a recent report by Edinburgh-based oil and gas consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, “post 2018, decline is forecast to set in once more with production dipping below 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2023, less than a quarter of the 1999 peak.”

Meanwhile, disagreement has emerged over whether an independent Scotland could keep using the British pound sterling currency. All the three major Westminster-based political parties claim that they would veto any such continuation, but the Yes campaign insists the issue remains outside of Westminister control, pointing to Panamanian use of the U.S. dollar.

Some suggest that an independent Scotland may have to wait five years before E.U. membership would be considered. This has raised the concerns of the nation’s whisky distillers, which currently account for a quarter of the U.K.’s total food and drink exports and some 35,000 jobs. “Even a temporary interruption of E.U. membership … would be damaging and difficult to manage,” David Frost, the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, wrote in his annual review.

Defense is also a quandary. Scotland currently hosts the British fleet of Trident nuclear submarines, which Salmond says would have to relocate in the event of independence. In addition, thousands of Scottish soldiers current serve in the British armed forces.

TIME Australia

Australian Police Foil Islamist Terrorist Plot in Country’s Largest Ever Raid

AUSTRALIA-ATTACKS-IRAQ-SYRIA-CONFLICT-POLICE
William West—AFP/Getty Images New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione, second from right, speaks during a press conference in Sydney on Sept. 18, 2014, after Australia's largest ever counterterrorism raids detained 15 people and disrupted plans to "commit violent acts"

More than 800 security personnel raided 25 addresses in two cities

Australian security officials say that they have thwarted an alleged plot by Islamist extremists to snatch a random member of the Australian public and behead them on camera.

The revelation comes after raids on 25 homes across Sydney and Brisbane early Thursday morning by more than 800 uniformed police officers, forensic experts, and agents from chief spy agency ASIO, in the largest counterterrorism raid every conducted on Australian soil.

The raids resulted in the seizure of computers, documents, a firearm and the arrest of 15 suspects, one of whom, 22-year-old Omarjan Azari, will face court in Sydney later on Thursday, when details of the alleged beheading plot are expected to be revealed.

“You know it is of serious concern that right at the heart of our communities we have people that are planning to conduct random attacks,” New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione said at a press briefing. “Today we worked together to make sure that didn’t happen. We have disrupted that particular attack.”

The swoop took place on the same day that 10 Australian military aircraft, 400 support personnel and 200 special-forces troops were dispatched to the United Arab Emirates as part of the U.S.-led coalition against IS militants in Syria and Iraq.

The raids also follow the arrest last week in Brisbane of two suspects at an Islamic bookstore, accused of recruiting jihadist fighters for Syria, and an announcement by Prime Minister Tony Abbott that the country’s terrorism-alert level had been raised from medium to high.

Abbott said at the time there was “no specific intelligence of particular plots” but asked the community to be vigilant and warmed of an increase in security measures at airports, government buildings and major events, including the 2014 G-20 summit to be held in Brisbane from Nov. 15 to 16.

Clive Williams, an adjunct professor with the Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at the Australian National University, tells TIME that the recent cancellation of the passports of up to 60 Australians suspected of extremist links may have inadvertently increased the chance of an attack on home soil.

“The policy of stopping extremists from traveling overseas and fighting in Syria or Iraq has resulted in a large pool of frustrated people,” he explains. “They are a large risk to us and more of a threat than [Australian jihadists] who are already in the Middle East and may decide to come back one day.”

Sam Makinda, professor and founder of Murdoch University’s security, terrorism and counterterrorism studies program, says that “having supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003 and so on, Australia had long ago painted itself as a target.”

He adds, “The only reason Australia has not yet suffered a terror attack is because ASIO has worked so efficiently, professionally and successfully in the past.”

TIME The Philippines

The Philippines’ Most Active Volcano Is Now Shooting Lava and Super-Heated Boulders

Nearly 24,000 people have been evacuated

Evacuations are continuing on the island of Luzon in the Philippines after an active volcano began billowing smoke and spewing lava and heated boulders.

Seismologists have raised the alert level at Mount Mayon to critical. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology says that magma is now accumulating at the crater and that a major eruption is possible “within weeks,” according to CNN.

The institute’s head, Renato Solidum, told the Associated Press that technically the volcano was already erupting “but not explosive.”

He said: “Currently, the activity is just lava coming down. If there is an explosion, all sides of the volcano are threatened.”

AP reports that nearly 24,000 people from villages within an 8-km (5 miles) radius from the crater have been evacuated.

Scientists have recorded rock falls and small earthquakes around the crater and say the red glow of lava is visible at night. Volcanologist Ed Laguerta told AP that lava and boulders could be seen rolling down from the crater on Tuesday night from as far away as 12 km (7 miles).

Mount Mayon, which lies about 330 km (210 miles) southeast of the capital Manila, is one of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes. It has erupted 50 times in the past 500 years.

[AP]

TIME Scotland

TIME Readers Vote ‘Yes’ For Scottish Independence in Online Poll

Graffiti supporting the "Yes" campaign is painted on a road in North Uist in the Outer Hebrides
Cathal McNaughton—Reuters Graffiti supporting the "Yes" campaign is painted on a road in North Uist in the Outer Hebrides Sept. 17, 2014.

Over 16,000 people voted

Respondents to an online TIME poll have voted for Scotland to become an independent nation.

A total of 16,418 reader votes were tallied, of which 9,436 (57.5%) were for Scotland’s secession from the U.K. and 6,982 (42.5%) were for the maintenance of the 307-year-old union.

Some 4.2 million Scottish residents are eligible to vote in the real referendum on Thursday, polls for which open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. local time. Results from the 32 local authority areas are expected to trickle in during the wee hours of Friday. A nation, or possibly two, is on tenterhooks.

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