Monthly Archives: October 2010

October in Austria coldest since 1974

This month has been the coldest October in more than 35 years, meteorologists have revealed.

austrianindependent.com | Oct 20, 2010

Experts at Vienna’s Centre for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) announced today (Fri) the average temperature this month was just 7.8 degrees centigrade. They said this was the lowest figure since 1974.

The meteorologists added Tannheim in the province of Tyrol recorded the lowest temperature this month on 22 October when the thermometers registered minus 11.6 degrees centigrade. They also pointed out that weather stations in Austria’s mountains recorded even lower temperatures.

Several Austrian ski resorts already started the season earlier this month.

More than 56 million overnight stays were registered between November 2009 and March of this year across Austria. Surveys have shown that most hotel managers expect to do comparably well this year.

The Innsbruck Management Centre (MCI) analysis has recently shown that one in five jobs in Austria are directly or indirectly dependent on the country’s tourism.

Museum of the Order of St John set to open


Knight of the Order of St John, Nelson Mandela

islingtontribune.com | Oct 29, 2010

by TERRY MESSENGER

PRICELESS paintings, artefacts and archives telling the story of one of the world’s oldest charities will go on display in Clerkenwell this week.

The Museum of the Order of St John opens on Wednesday at the thousand-year-old organisation’s  base in St John’s Gate.

The order is best known for founding Jerusalem’s famous eye hospital in the 11th century and running St John’s Ambulance – along with other charitable schemes worldwide.

Items from its past, including ancient Maltese silver, a medieval Flemish altarpiece and a cannon donated by Henry VIII, will be exhibited at the museum.

The £3.7million cost of the project was met by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the charitable Wellcome Foundation and private benefactors. The order is a Protestant offshoot of the Roman Catholic Knights of Malta and is also known as the Knights Hospitaller.

Members include Nelson Mandela who said: “St John’s focus is on primary health care, especially among the poorest of the poor. Its capacity to tap the most generous and caring human impulses gives it a special place in our hearts”

Book outlines connections between Mormons’ Freemasons and the extraterrestrial phenomenon

Sequim, WA native celebrates controversial book release

Sequim Gazette | Oct 13, 2010

by Ashley Miller

What do Mormons, Freemasons and aliens have in common?

Matthew Heines, teacher and author, shares his theories on the subject in his recently published book, “Deceptions of the Ages: ‘Mormons’ Freemasons & Extraterrestrials.”

“There is a connection among those three things,” Heines insisted, promising readers that the text is neither fictional nor a conspiracy theory.

“I give you the cultural context – I don’t just throw crazy ideas out there – with information that is real and is in historical textbooks.”

The book, Heines assured, isn’t an anti-Mormon or anti-Freemason text. It’s simply about history, covering a span of about 5,000 years and focusing on factual and objective insights into some of the biggest deceptions of our time.

Using historical texts and holy writings from Socrates, Stephen Hawking, Moses, Max Planck, saints and satanists, “Deceptions of the Ages” discusses the conflict between science and religion and truth and secrecy in what Heines describes as an “interesting and humorous way.” The 700-page book uncovers relationships between the Society of Freemasons, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the extraterrestrial phenomenon while also discussing modern-day issues such as the rise of modern banking, war and technology.

“In the Information Age, it seems that correct information is harder than ever to come by,” Heines said.

“This book is written for all the working men and women of this world who have become disconnected and disempowered. It is a way for them to at least have a basic understanding of the modern system of government, religion, history and science.”

“This is information that they don’t want us to know about,” Heines said. “Who is ‘they’? Read the book.”

Heines was raised in the Pacific Northwest and graduated from Sequim High School. He served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division from 1982-1986, where he “learned how to camp, jump out of airplanes and play with dangerous weapons.” Then he entered the world of academia, attending Washington State University and then the University of Alaska where he earned his master’s degree and became a “world class sledder and tobogganist.”

After graduation, Heines taught in Wasilla, Alaska; Seattle and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Following Sept. 11, 2001, Heines accepted a job in the Sultanate of Oman and has written two accounts of his experiences in the heart of Arabia during the early years of the war on terrorism.

“My Year in Oman,” “Another Year in Oman,” and “Deceptions of the Ages” are all available for sale via Amazon.com or through the official website of Matthew D. Heines.

At the persistence of his wife, Sangeeta, Heines is taking a break from teaching and focusing all of his energy on writing. The couple lives in the Sultanate of Oman but spend their summers in Sequim, where they rent a cabin overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“We love living here (in the Sultanate of Oman) and will probably stay for a few more years,” Heines predicted, describing the area as very different from how it’s portrayed on television.

“It’s cheap, the lifestyle is fantastic, the people are nice, it’s always sunny and we’re treated like royalty.”

“Of course, it’s not all beer and Skittles,” he added on a more serious note, “but I really enjoy it.”

Ultimately, the couple would like to retire to Sequim, Heines said, but that won’t be for a while.

In the meantime, Heines is working from sun up until sun down marketing “Deceptions of the Ages” and is in discussion with the History Channel regarding a show about UFOs.

For more information, excerpts and photographs, go online to www.heinessight.com.

Government ready to counter suggestions that Condit was involved in Chandra Levy murder


FILE – In this July 11, 2001, file photo, then-Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., leaves his Washington apartment. Condit’s career imploded after he was romantically linked to Chandra Levy and became the main suspect of police in their high-profile investigation of her disappearance. Though he has not been subpoenaed, Condit expects to be called as a witness Monday, most likely for the prosecution, at the trial of at Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador with a pedestrian criminal record, charged with Levy’s murder in 2009. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File)

Defense attorneys could be tempted to remind jurors that police were suspicious of Condit for so long.

The government will be ready to counter suggestions that Condit was involved.

AP | Oct 17, 2010

After 9 years and Condit’s fall, Levy trial begins

WASHINGTON (AP) — If one person is associated with the mysterious slaying of Washington intern Chandra Levy, it isn’t the man who will soon be tried on charges he murdered her. It’s former California congressman Gary Condit, whose political career imploded after he was romantically linked to the woman and became the No. 1 suspect.

Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, goes on trial Monday for Levy’s 2001 killing. However, he’s not even a blip on the national consciousness of the case, which dominated news coverage until the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks rendered it an afterthought.

While police no longer believe Condit had anything to do with Levy’s death, his presence will continue to hang over the trial. Condit’s spokesman, Bert Fields, said Condit expects to be called as a witness at Guandique’s trial, though he has not been subpoenaed.

Fields said Condit will cooperate fully with authorities. But the ex-congressman, who is writing a book about his experience, will not comment on the trial until it ends.

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office, declined comment on the case and whether Condit will be called as a witness, citing a gag order issued earlier this month.

Defense attorneys are also subject to the gag order. But when Guandique was charged in 2009 with Levy’s murder, they criticized what they saw as a botched investigation. Guandique escaped scrutiny in large part because of the frenzy around Condit. The former congressman never admitted an affair but said he was friends with Levy, though the intern had told family members the two had a romantic relationship.

“This flawed investigation, characterized by the many mistakes and missteps of the Metropolitan Police Department and every federal agency that has attempted to solve this case, will not end with the simple issuance of an arrest warrant against Mr. Guandique,” said the attorneys, Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo.

At a pretrial hearing Thursday, Sonenberg said police were so desperate to get a confession from Guandique to bolster their case that in 2004 and 2005, police tried to establish a phony penpal relationship with Guandique while he was in prison serving a 10-year sentence, using the pseudonym “Maria Lopez.” The ruse did not work.

“It goes to the sort of antics, the sort of shenanigans, the lengths to which they’ve gone to prosecute Mr. Guandique,” Sonenberg said.

Then-U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor has acknowledged the case lacked DNA or physical evidence linking Guandique to Levy. And Guandique never confessed to police — in fact, he passed a lie-detector test denying involvement in Levy’s disappearance, though prosecutors now question the validity of that test.

But Taylor cited significant circumstantial evidence, including numerous confessions that Guandique purportedly made to other inmates. And Levy’s body was found in a wooded section of the city’s Rock Creek Park, where Guandique was convicted of assaulting two other young women in 2001.

At a pretrial hearing last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines said Guandique has a “signature confession style.” She said he has discussed killing Levy with many people, giving each person starkly different details.

Whether jurors believe those confessions will be key. The defense wants to present expert testimony from a university professor on the pitfalls of accounts from jailhouse snitches. However, prosecutors say jurors should be allowed to judge the credibility of witnesses for themselves. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher has indicated he will not allow the vast majority of the professor’s proposed testimony.

As for Condit, exactly what role he will play in the trial is unclear. Defense attorneys could be tempted to remind jurors that police were suspicious of Condit for so long, said attorney George Jackson, a Chicago-based lawyer with the Polsinelli Shughart law firm and a former federal prosecutor.

Jackson said the defense will have to tread lightly because jurors will be put off if they sense attorneys are trying to make an innocent man into a scapegoat. And the government will surely be ready to counter suggestions that Condit was involved. But because Condit is so closely linked to the case in the public’s eye, the defense has some leeway to approach the issue with subtlety.

“If it’s feasible to suggest that this guy may have been involved, you put it out there” to help create reasonable doubt in a jury’s mind, Jackson said. “But it’s a dangerous thing to do because you don’t know if there will be a backlash.”

Why 13 percent of Germans would welcome a ‘Führer’

Christian Science Monitor | Oct 15, 2010

By Robert Marquand Robert Marquand

Paris – A new survey in Germany shows that 13 percent of its citizens would welcome a “Führer” – a German word for leader that is explicitly associated with Adolf Hitler – to run the country “with a firm hand.”

The findings signal that Europe’s largest nation, freed from cold-war strictures, is not immune from the extreme and often right-wing politics on the rise around the Continent.

The study, released Oct. 13 by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, affiliated with the center-left Social Democratic Party, revealed among other things that more than a third of Germans feel the country is “overrun by foreigners,” some 60 percent would “restrict the practice of Islam,” and 17 percent think Jews have “too much influence.”

The study’s overall snapshot of German society shows new forms of extremism and hate are no longer the province of far-right cohorts who shave their heads or wear leather jackets adorned with silver skulls – but register in the tweedy political center, on the right and the left. Indeed, the study found, extremism in Germany isn’t a fringe phenomenon but is found in the political center, “in all social groups and in all age groups, regardless of employment status, educational level or gender.”

Far-right parties gain power across EuropeThe year 2010 is marking a clear shift toward extremist politics across Europe, analysts say. An uncertain economy, a gap between elites and ordinary Europeans, and fraying of a traditional sense of national identity has just in the past month brought more hard-line politics and speech, often aimed at Islam or immigrants – into a political mainstream where it had been absent or considered taboo.

On Oct. 10, the city of Vienna, a cosmopolitan and socialist stronghold since World War II, voted the far-right Freedom Party into a ruling coalition. The party, which ran on an “anti-minaret” platform in a city with only one mosque, was formerly associated with nationalist Jorg Haider, but has been reinvented by an animated former dental hygienist, Heinz-Christian Strache.

On Sept. 19, Sweden, long a Scandinavian redoubt of social tolerance and openness, put the far-right Sweden Democrats into parliament for the first time.

Further, this week the Netherlands saw the rise to influence, if not power, of the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders, a social liberal who argues for gay rights – but whose main platform is to ban the Quran and the practice of Islam in the Low Countries. Mr. Wilders’ party will formally participate in the Dutch ruling coalition without specifically joining it.

This new governing architecture – extreme parties that indirectly join a ruling coalition – is now found in Denmark, where the government must rely on the far-right People’s Party to operate. As author Ian Buruma notes, this form of government gives extreme parties “power without responsibility.”

Growing divide over immigrants’ placeTo be sure, German politics, which outlaws extremist parties, has no corollary to events taking place in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, or Switzerland.

Yet xenophobic rhetoric has crept in. Germany is currently enswathed in debate over comments by Horst Seehofer, president of the Bavarian Christian-Social Union, who stated days ago, “It is clear that immigrants from other cultures such as Turkey and Arabic countries have more difficulties. From that I draw the conclusion that we don’t need additional immigration from other cultures.” The CSU is a sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Mr. Seehofer’s comments are seen as responding to German president Christian Wulff on Oct. 3, German Unity Day, in which he called for a second German unification that would more fully integrate those of immigrant background; he said that “Islam also is part of Germany.”

President Wulff’s statement followed a month of furor over a new book by leftist German central banker Thilo Sarrazin, “Germany Abolishes Itself,” positing that immigrants from Turkey and Arab states are lowering German intelligence quotients due to high birth rates and less education, and “have no productive function except in the fruit and vegetable trade.”

Mr. Sarrazin’s analysis and statistics have been roundly denunciated, and he has resigned his federal banker’s post – but his book quickly sold 1.5 million copies.

Why extreme-right views are coming to the surfaceThe Friedrich Ebert Foundation study that came out this week is based on 2,411 respondents and was conducted in April, prior to the recent emotional immigration debate sparked by Sarrazin, Seehofer, and Wulff.

The rise of racism and intolerance argued in the study contrasts with similar foundation studies, prior to the economic crisis in Europe, showing a decrease in racism or xenophobia. However, today nearly a third of Germans polled would consider a policy repatriating immigrants if the job market suffers further.

The authors of the study urge fellow Germans not to “underestimate” right-wing sentiment.

Oliver Decker, one of the study’s authors, says the findings indicate a new popular willingness to express hardcore opinions.

“In the past the base for extreme-right views in Germany, though present, was more latent in nature. Now these views are being expressed more frequently,” Mr. Decker says. “The economic crisis seems to have allowed aggression come to the surface. Among those looking for a valve, foreigners in general and Muslims in particular fill that role.”

Man shown being tortured by Indonesia’s security services in video

There have been repeated reports of abuses by the military and police, but foreign journalists are banned from entering Papua without special permission.

The Age | Oct 18, 2010

Tom Allard, Jakarta

Torture of Papuan man shown on video

A GRAPHIC video has emerged of a Papuan man being poked in the genitals with a fiery stick as he is interrogated by men who appear to be members of Indonesia’s security services.

The Papuan man, stripped naked, bound and with one of the interrogators placing a foot on his chest, is being asked about the location of a cache of weapons. After telling his interrogators the weapons were hidden in a pig pen, one of them screams at him: ”You cheat, you cheat.”

Another interrogator then says ”get a fire, get a fire” before a colleague administers the torture with a stick that has been placed in a fire and is smouldering. The man screams in agony, and does so again when the stick is again pressed against his genitals.

The video appears to have been taken with a mobile phone by one of the interrogators, who speak with Javanese and Ambonese accents and wear plain clothes. While it is common for Indonesian police and troops to wear civilian clothing, it is impossible to verify that those in the video are members of the security services. But the nature of the interrogation suggests professionals at work, as does a later incident in the 10-minute video when an M-16 rifle is pointed at the man’s mouth.

”So you want me to shoot your mouth? So your mouth breaks?” the interrogator shouts.

The Age was unable to get a response from the Indonesian military or police late yesterday.

The emergence of the video – it was posted on YouTube three days ago by someone with the moniker papualiberationarmy and obtained independently by The Age – comes as the Indonesian government faces criticism about abuses by its security forces in Papua, where a long-simmering separatist struggle has been waged.

Despite a special autonomy deal given to the province by Jakarta almost 10 years ago, the region’s indigenous Melanesian people remain the country’s poorest, while migrants from other parts of Indonesia flood into the resource-rich area and dominate business and paid employment, further marginalising the Papuans.

There have been repeated reports of abuses by the military and police, but foreign journalists are banned from entering Papua without special permission and non-government groups, including the International Committee for the Red Cross, have been told to leave in the past year.

Two Papuan victims are in the video, one naked and being burnt while the other is clothed and has a large knife placed under his nose. At one point, one of the interrogators says: ”I’ll cut your throat.”

The footage is graphic, with the men being hit and threatened throughout the interrogation.

The victims speak in the Papuan dialect Lani, strongly suggesting the video was filmed in Puncak Jaya, a regency in Papua’s highlands where a unit of the armed Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM) commanded by Goliat Tabuni has launched sporadic attacks on police and military posts in the past two years. Numerous weapons have been stolen in the raids and at least four soldiers and policemen killed.

The Indonesian government has bolstered security in the region, sending members of the national police’s mobile brigade and anti-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, to the region.

While separatist sentiment remains strong among many Papuans, there is little international support for their objectives. Australia recognises Indonesia’s sovereignty over the region.

Student’s discovery of GPS tracker in car becomes privacy issue

In this undated photo provided by Yasir Afifi, shows a GPS monitoring device he found on his car in Santa Clara, Calif. Afifi took his car in for an oil change earlier this month and his mechanic spotted an odd wire hanging from the undercarriage. The wire was attached to a strange magnetic device that puzzled Afifi and the mechanic. They freed it from the car and posted images of it online, asking for help in identifying it. Two days later, FBI agents arrived at Afifi’s Santa Clara apartment and demanded the return of their property, a global positioning system tracking device now at the center of a raging legal debate over privacy rights.(AP Photo/ Yasir Afifi)

One federal judge wrote that the widespread use of the device was straight out of George Orwell’s novel, “1984”.

Associated Press | Oct 16, 2010

By Paul Elias

SAN FRANCISCO – Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old computer salesman and community college student, took his car in for an oil change earlier this month and his mechanic spotted an odd wire hanging from the undercarriage.

The wire was attached to a strange magnetic device that puzzled Afifi and the mechanic. They freed it from the car and posted images of it online, asking for help in identifying it.

Two days later, FBI agents arrived at Afifi’s Santa Clara apartment and demanded the return of their property — a global positioning system tracking device now at the center of a raging legal debate over privacy rights.

One federal judge wrote that the widespread use of the device was straight out of George Orwell’s novel, “1984”.

“By holding that this kind of surveillance doesn’t impair an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, the panel hands the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives,” wrote Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a blistering dissent in which a three-judge panel from his court ruled that search warrants weren’t necessary for GPS tracking.

But other federal and state courts have come to the opposite conclusion.

Law enforcement advocates for the devices say GPS can eliminate time-consuming stakeouts and old-fashioned “tails” with unmarked police cars. The technology had a starring role in the HBO cops-and-robbers series “The Wire” and police use it to track every type of suspect — from terrorist to thieves stealing copper from air conditioners.

That investigators don’t need a warrant to use GPS tracking devices in California troubles privacy advocates, technophiles, criminal defense attorneys and others.

The federal appeals court based in Washington D.C. said in August that investigators must obtain a warrant for GPS in tossing out the conviction and life sentence of Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner convicted of operating a cocaine distribution ring. That court concluded that the accumulation of four-weeks worth of data collected from a GPS on Jones’ Jeep amounted to a government “search” that required a search warrant.

Judge Douglas Ginsburg said watching Jones’ Jeep for an entire month rather than trailing him on one trip made all the difference between surveilling a suspect on public property and a search needing court approval.

“First, unlike one’s movements during a single journey, the whole of one’s movements over the course of a month is not actually exposed to the public because the likelihood anyone will observe all those movements is effectively nil,” Ginsburg wrote. The state high courts of New York, Washington and Oregon have ruled similarly.

The Obama administration last month asked the D.C. federal appeals court to change its ruling, calling the decision “vague and unworkable” and arguing that investigators will lose access to a tool they now use “with great frequency.”

After the D.C. appeals court decision, the 9th Circuit refused to revisit its opposite ruling.

The panel had concluded that agents could have gathered the same information by following Juan Pineda-Moreno, who was convicted of marijuana distribution after a GPS device alerted agents he was leaving a suspected “grow site.”

“The only information the agents obtained from the tracking devices was a log of the locations where Pineda-Moreno’s car traveled, information the agents could have obtained by following the car,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the three-judge panel.

Two other federal appeals court have ruled similarly.

In his dissent, Chief Judge Kozinski noted that GPS technology is far different from tailing a suspect on a public road, which requires the active participation of investigators.

“The devices create a permanent electronic record that can be compared, contrasted and coordinated to deduce all manner of private information about individuals,” Kozinksi wrote.

Legal scholars predict the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately resolve the issue since so many courts disagree.

George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr said the issue boils down to public vs. private. As long as the GPS devices are attached to vehicles on public roads, Kerr believes the U.S. Supreme Court will decide no warrant is needed. To decide otherwise, he said, would ignore a long line of previous 4th Amendment decisions allowing for warrantless searches as long as they’re conducted on public property.

“The historic line is that public surveillance is not covered by the 4th Amendment,” Kerr said.

All of which makes Afifi’s lawyer pessimistic that he has much of a chance to file a successful lawsuit challenging the FBI’s actions. Afifi is represented by Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Islamic civil rights group.

Afifi declined comment after spending last week fielding myriad media inquiries after wired.com posted the story of his routine oil change and it went viral on the Internet.

Still, Billoo hopes the discovered GPS tracking device will help publicize in dramatic fashion the issue of racial profiling the lawyer says Arab-Americans routinely encounter.

She said Afifi was targeted because of his extensive ties to the Middle East, which include supporting two brothers who live in Egypt and making frequent overseas trips. His father was a well-known Islamic-American community leader who died last year in Egypt.

“Yasir hasn’t done anything to warrant that kind of surveillance,” Billoo said. “This was a blatant example of profiling.”