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July 30th, 2014 12:01 am WW Staff | Murmurs

Murmurs: News That's Always Alert and Chatty

murmurs_tomnelsonYonas Fikre - IMAGE: Tom Nelson

  • A former Portland resident who says he was tortured in the United Arab Emirates in 2011 at the behest of the U.S. government has been denied asylum in Sweden. Yonas Fikre, a Muslim from Oregon, says shortly before he was kidnapped and tortured, he was extensively questioned by a Portland-based intelligence officer who wanted to know about Masjed As-Saber, Portland’s largest mosque (“Sleepless in Abu Dhabi,” WW, April 18, 2012). The Swedish migration board denied Fikre asylum this month, saying it did not find enough evidence to support Fikre’s claims that U.S. authorities were responsible for the abuse and torture he says he underwent. But the board also did not dispute Fikre’s claims. The ruling says Fikre must leave Sweden for at least five years, but his lawyer plans to appeal.

  • A defendant awaiting trial for more than six years on sex-abuse charges will undergo another competency evaluation, a federal judge ruled last week. Andrew Franklin Kowalczyk has fired nine court-appointed attorneys and had his trial postponed more than a dozen times since being accused in 2008 of sexually abusing three young girls (“Justice Derailed,” WW, April 23, 2014). U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman said last week that Kowalczyk’s previous evaluation failed to take into consideration a pattern of paranoia, even if Kowalczyk understands the charges against him and appears to have exaggerated his symptoms. Robert W. Reid, a Portland lawyer appointed to represent Kowalczyk, told the court his client is “maladaptive and very, very unpleasant”—but deserves a thorough psychological evaluation.

  • Cotton-Top Tamarin
    IMAGE: Oregon Zoo/ Michael Durham

    The Oregon Zoo garnered unwelcome attention this spring when six endangered cotton-top tamarins died in quarantine after traveling 50 hours in a van from Harvard Medical School (Murmurs, WW, June 18, 2014). News media have focused less on   the fates of the three surviving monkeys, including an infant. Internal zoo records obtained by WW show the trio is doing just fine. “Very alert and chatty,” a keeper reported July 21. “Youngster is very active,” the keeper wrote a week before, “and readily came down and took an egg from me this AM.”

  • Need to turn your cash into Bitcoin? Four men in North Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood have created one of the nation’s first Bitcoin ATMs. This month, inventor Jon Hannis and three partners started selling the ATM from a warehouse along North Interstate Avenue. The machine, called Skyhook, is slightly bigger than a breadbox—15 inches tall—and accepts U.S. dollars, turning them into Web-based cryptocurrency. (It doesn’t dispense dollar bills, however.) Project Skyhook chief operating officer Kyle Drake says they’ve sold 200 of the machines—most of them outside Oregon, though a Portland hacker space, BrainSilo, has one. “We’re not really in this to make money, but to build an awesome thing,” Drake says. A Skyhook costs $999. Read more about this and other Portland tech startups here.

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