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, Portlandâs largest mosque (âSleepless in Abu Dhabi,â WW, April 18, 2012). The Swedish migration board denied Fikre asylum this month, saying it did not find enough evidence to support Fikreâs claims that U.S. authorities were responsible for the abuse and torture he says he underwent. But the board also did not dispute Fikreâs 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 (âJustice Derailed,â WW, April 23, 2014). U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman said last week that Kowalczykâs 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 âmaladaptive and very, very unpleasantââbut deserves a thorough psychological evaluation.
Cotton-Top TamarinIMAGE: Oregon Zoo/ Michael DurhamThe 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. âVery alert and chatty,â a keeper reported July 21. âYoungster is very active,â the keeper wrote a week before, âand readily came down and took an egg from me this AM.â
Need to turn your cash into Bitcoin? Four men in North Portlandâs Portsmouth neighborhood have created one of the nationâs 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 breadboxâ15 inches tallâand accepts U.S. dollars, turning them into Web-based cryptocurrency. (It doesnât dispense dollar bills, however.) Project Skyhook chief operating officer Kyle Drake says theyâve sold 200 of the machinesâmost of them outside Oregon, though a Portland hacker space, BrainSilo, has one. âWeâre not really in this to make money, but to build an awesome thing,â Drake says. A Skyhook costs $999. Read more about this and other Portland tech startups here.