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Wanted terror suspect arrested in Austria as German prosecutors dismiss report on attack plan

BERLIN – Austrian authorities have arrested an alleged Islamic extremist suspected of belonging to a terrorist group, German prosecutors said Saturday.

The 26-year-old, identified only as Yusuf O., was detained in Austria in late May on a German arrest warrant, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said. The arrest had not been made public earlier because extradition procedures are still under way.

The German national of Turkish descent is suspected of involvement with the German Taliban Mujahideen, a fundamentalist group that prosecutors say seeks to carry out attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and found a “religious fundamentalist society” there. Prosecutors declined to elaborate.

German media reported the suspect underwent paramilitary training in a terror camp in Pakistan’s lawless border region and appeared in several Islamist propaganda videos.

On Wednesday, Austrian authorities also arrested four other suspected extremists linked to the German Taliban Mujahideen at Vienna airport on suspicion they were heading off to train at terrorism camps in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

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But a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Prosecutors Office on Saturday dismissed a report alleging that one of the four suspected extremists was plotting to attack the country’s parliament in Berlin with a commercial airplane.

“There are no indications of concrete preparations for an attack in Germany,” the official said on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung reported that 25-year-old suspect had undergone flight training and was plotting to target Berlin’s emblematic parliament building by hijacking an airplane.

The newspaper gave no source for its report. Prosecutors in Vienna were not immediately reachable for comment.

German prosecutors said there was no “criminally relevant link” between Yusuf O. and the group of four.

However, the prosecution spokesman added that the group is also under investigation in Germany, though not in connection with a concrete plot but on suspicion of “providing financial support to the violent jihad.”

Germany has so far escaped a major terror attack, but several terror plots were foiled in their early stages over the past few years.

In April, German police arrested three suspected al-Qaida members in the western city of Duesseldorf allegedly working on making a shrapnel-laden bomb to attack a crowded place. Authorities believe the cell’s alleged ringleader trained in a terror camp in Pakistan.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, says that about 225 people who are German citizens or have lived in Germany, have undergone paramilitary training in Afghanistan or Pakistan since the 1990s.

US Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of child sex convictions by evangelist Tony Alamo

An attorney for an evangelist convicted of taking young girls across state lines for sex said Saturday that he will continue working to get Tony Alamo’s sentence reduced or his conviction overturned despite the refusal by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

Alamo, who was convicted in 2009 of taking five girls he had married across state lines for sex, was sentenced to 175 years in federal prison and ordered to pay each victim $500,000 and was fined $250,000.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal earlier this year and defence attorney John Wesley Hall appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

The court’s refusal to hear the case upholds the lower court ruling, according to U.S. Attorney Connor Eldridge.

The high court’s decision not to hear the case was made Monday, according to its website. Hall said he learned of the court’s decision, first reported by the Texarkana Gazette, in a letter he received Thursday.

Hall said Saturday that the high court has said that its denial to hear any case is not a reflection of the court’s view of the merits of the case.

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“You can file a post-conviction petition, to attack the conviction on some denial of rights during the process. Generally, it falls to ineffective counsel at trial,” said Hall, who did not represent Alamo during the 2009 trial.

Hall said he has up to a year to submit a filing that would be made in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Texarkana, where the trial was held.

Hall said he has not spoken to Alamo, who was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman.

Eldridge said Saturday that he is as pleased as he was when the jury returned with a guilty verdict.

“Of course, our office feels there is no legal or factual basis to overturn the jury verdict,” Eldridge said. “The jury heard the testimony in this case and found Mr. Alamo guilty.

“As we said all along, Mr. Alamo’s conduct took a terrible tragic toll on the lives of his victims. At the end of the day he was certainly held accountable by the jury’s verdict.”

Eldridge said his office is also working to collect the money that Alamo was ordered to pay the victims and the fine.

Federal Liberals delay leadership vote up to two years

VANCOUVER – Shattered Liberals will wait up to two years to choose a new leader, hoping the delay will give them a fighting chance against rival parties bent on wiping them off Canada’s federal political map.

Some 2,000 delegates to a special “virtual convention” voted Saturday to postpone a leadership vote until sometime between March 1 and June 30, 2013.

That’s an even greater delay than proposed by party brass, who had wanted 18 to 22 months to rebuild before choosing a permanent replacement for Michael Ignatieff.

Ignatieff resigned after leading the self-styled “natural governing party” to its worst defeat in history in the May 2 election. The Liberals were reduced to a third party rump with only 34 MPs; Ignatieff lost his own seat.

Toronto MP Bob Rae was named interim leader last month and will continue to hold down the fort until a permanent successor is chosen.

In a speech at the start of the teleconference convention, which was streamed live on the Liberal party’s website, Rae said both Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Jack Layton’s NDP would like to “destroy the Liberal party” for good, leaving a polarized choice between parties of the right and left.

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Liberals, he said, have to fight back by rebuilding the party, root and branch, and that will take time. While he did not express a preference for any precise date, Rae urged delegates to defer a leadership vote and give the party time pull itself up off the mat.

“We need to take the time to make the right choices and to make those important strides on fundraising, organization and policy.”

Rae added that rebuilding “is not just a name for doing whatever we normally do between elections.

“Something different happened on May 2. This has put us in a different place, we need to do things differently this time.”

Delegates were presented with a number of options, both longer and shorter than the 18-22 month delay proposed by party brass. In the end, they picked the option that provided for the longest delay.

They were persuaded in that choice by former leader Stephane Dion, who reminded delegates of the hatchet jobs done on him and Ignatieff by relentless Tory attack ads. Liberals, he argued, must not choose a new leader until they’ve amassed the money and organization needed to fight back against the inevitable Tory onslaught.

“The defeat has been very severe. The party has a monumental task to do. We should do it step by step,” Dion said in a later interview, adding that “the only good news of this disastrous (election) result” is that Liberals have plenty of time to pull themselves back together.

If Liberals choose a leader before undertaking any rebuilding, Dion said, “The leader will be without any protection facing the Conservatives.”

He predicted the Tories will try to do to the next leader what they did to him and Ignatieff, define the person “in a very negative way,” as “an ugly, unsympathetic person, unable to be a leader, not a Canadian, willing to tax them like crazy.”

And he said Canadians will believe it unless the Liberal party is ready to counter the attacks.

“And for that we need greater organization, good fundraising, good communications in the social media and the traditional media.”

In particular, Dion said the party must be able to hit back in kind when the Tories spend millions on negative ads in prime time – something the Liberals could not afford when Dion and Ignatieff came under sustained fire.

“If they put (ads) in the Superbowl and we answer on Facebook … it’s not enough. You can’t compete and then, the election starts and people think they know you,” he said, speaking from bitter experience.

Under the party’s constitution, Liberals should choose a successor within five months of a leader’s resignation – that is, by October of this year. Few, if any, Liberals had the stomach to plunge immediately into a leadership contest so soon after the May 2 bloodbath.

Hence, at Saturday’s convention they amended the constitution to allow a delay for up to two years.

They also voted to delay the party’s biennial policy convention, which was supposed to be held by the end of this year, until Jan. 13-15, 2012.

Some Liberals supported holding a leadership vote no later than the fall of 2012. Jeff Jedras, who moved that proposal, argued that rebuilding and new leadership go hand in hand and the party must “walk and chew gum at the same time.”

One supporter of Jedras’s proposal maintained that leadership contests are divisive and shouldn’t be dragged out unnecessarily. Another said an earlier contest would give the new leader more time to become known by Canadians before the next election in four years.

But the overwhelming mood of the delegates was to put off the contest as long as possible. Fully 89 per cent ultimately supported the two-year delay.

Index

MILAN – There’s an inherent message in Burberry Prorsum’s menswear collection for next spring and summer. Slow down.

Designer Christopher Bailey isn’t trying to hit anyone over the head with the thought. It’s more by example.

CHICAGO – Medicare crises, looming doctor shortages, more patients without health insurance. And that doesn’t even count the big changes coming from a revamped health care system.

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It’s a troubling time for doctors as they gather for the annual American Medical Association meeting.

PHILADELPHIA – Martha Stewart’s media aspirations just got bigger: Meet Martha Stewart, comic-book heroine.

The woman who created her own media empire – television, magazines and more – is getting a biographical treatment in her own comic book next month.

ASCOT, England – Christina Osborne has a system for winning at Royal Ascot, the five-day horse racing event that is one of the highlights of England’s glittering if brief summer social season.

The American in London doesn’t bother with the odds, the bookies or the data-packed Racing Post. She just picks the horses with the cutest names.

TORONTO – Lots of rain in many parts of the country means that grass is growing like, well, a weed, and some Canadians may already be getting their fill of cutting it. But that doesn’t mean lawn mower operators should be lax when it comes to safety, which is still essential to help prevent injury.

Lawn mower accidents can cause serious injuries to legs, arms, fingers, toes or other body parts. Between 1990 and 2006, a total of 1,161 patients visited Canadian hospitals for lawn mower-related injuries, according to Health & Safety Watch.

VIDALIA, Ga. – They’ve started fistfights and court battles, been romanticized in country songs and counterfeited by bootleggers. Their trademark sweetness has made them a coveted ingredient in recipes from salads and relishes to cookies and muffins.

If a museum dedicated to onions sounds rooted in folly, the history behind the famous Vidalia onion can likely hold its own with other veggie shrines such as the Idaho Potato Museum, the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Museum in Minnesota and the tiny Carrot Museum tucked in a Rhode Island bed-and-breakfast.

OTTAWA – Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is confirming that she intends to further restrict the way medical marijuana is grown.

She wants to take individual growers and Health Canada out of the business of producing the drug, and instead grant licences only to commercial operations.

OTTAWA – Health Canada is reviewing the status of the diabetes drug pioglitazone after studies suggested the medication may increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Pioglitazone, sold in Canada under the brand name Actos as well as in generic forms, is used alone or in combination with other diabetes drugs to control blood sugar levels when diet and exercise have failed.

Nothing says summer like ice cream and these walnut ice-cream bonbons are a perfect treat that is sure to make kids and adults alike smile.

Lollipop sticks can be purchased at bulk stores.

Next time you arrive home from work feeling famished, this Thai tuna and quinoa dish can be ready in a snap.

Quinoa Thai Tuna

Devilled eggs are a classic accompaniment to summer picnics and barbecue. But they generally are loaded with fat and calories from the egg yolks and mayonnaise.

We set out to remake the filling to be flavourful, yet pack significantly less guilt. Egg yolks do have great nutritional value; the majority of an egg’s vitamins and minerals are actually found in the yolk. But along with those nutrients are plenty of fat and cholesterol.

ATLANTA – The gap in cancer death rates between college graduates and those who only went to high school is widening, the American Cancer Society reported Friday.

Among men, the least educated died of cancer at rates more than 2 1/2 times that of men with college degrees, the latest data show. In the early 1990s, they died at two times the rate of most-educated men.

ATLANTA – A new study shows one in four high school studentsdrink soda every day -a sign fewer teens are downing the sugary drinks.

The study also found teens drink water, milk and fruit juices most often – a pleasant surprise, because researchers weren’t certain that was the case.

OTTAWA – The federal government is poised to tighten the rules on medical marijuana so that only licensed private operators are allowed to grow it, The Canadian Press has learned.

Sources say Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq wants to take individuals and Health Canada out of the business of growing pot.

Yes, indeedy, that guy in the Porsche or other jazzy, high-priced set of wheels is definitely an eye-catcher. But any woman seeking a long-term relationship should let this dude keep on driving, no matter how tempting his ride makes him seem.

That’s because such flamboyant spending seems to be driven by the desire to have no-strings-attached romantic flings – not marriage or other committed partnerships, a series of four studies by U.S. researchers has concluded.

WACCABUC, N.Y. – “Try it. Go ahead, stick your finger in!”

The dollop of spicy hot-pepper paste is hard to turn down, coming as it does from the blender of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of the best-known chefs in the world, not to mention the owner of 31 restaurants and the man known for basically revolutionizing fine dining in New York.

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The resort season is not a time for fashion to take a vacation. Resort collections, which hit stores during the all-important Christmas holiday shopping season, are a growing part of designer businesses as consumers move toward styles they can wear year-round.

The idea that people fully switch their closets between seasons is outdated, agrees Ken Downing, senior vice-president and fashion director for retailer Neiman Marcus. Shoppers want clothes they can wear the day they buy them, he says, and resort wear typically meets that demand.

OTTAWA – Stroke victims in Canada don’t get to hospitals quickly enough – and even when they do they can still wait hours for treatment, says a major study released Thursday.

The report by the Canadian Stroke Network suggests neither victims nor hospital staffs treat strokes as serious medical emergencies.

TORONTO – Almost 40 per cent of teens who answered a questionnaire about their sexual knowledge said the Internet is more useful than parents in providing this kind of information.

And almost one-quarter of respondents rated the Internet higher than their high school sexual education classes.

The goal was a simple chicken casserole that had the rich, satisfying flavour of a lasagna.

Actually, that’s a lie. The goal was a chicken roulade – a dish in which chicken breasts are pounded flat, then slathered or layered with some sort of filling, then rolled into a log and roasted or braised.

Couples hold ‘Kiss and Tell’ event in support of gay rights in U.S.

TORONTO – Canadians took part in a smooch-in Saturday in support of gay marriage rights in the United States.

More than 1,100 people across North America – dozens of them Canadians – kissed outside Lush Cosmetic stores, the company said.

The “Kiss and Tell” event was part of the company’s two-week campaign to convince the U.S. government to change the marriage law.

Gay, straight, bisexual and transgendered people in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and Calgary kissed for the cause but turnout was small in Canadian cities.

Jesse Showers, 21, and Sean Rockwood, 24, were among 10 couples who locked lips outside the Lush Cosmetics store on Toronto’s Queen Street West after a dish of breath mints was passed around.

“It’s about time to kind of start sending a message to the U.S. government to really start doing marriage equality as a priority,” said Rockwood, a store employee.

“Being gay, marriage equality is obviously a big concern for me and if I do get married some day, I want it to be recognized wherever I go,” said Showers.

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Couples kissed at 11:38 a.m. local time – chosen because 1,138 is the number of federal benefits and responsibilities afforded married Americans but denied to gay and lesbian couples living in the U.S., said store spokeswoman Maram Aoudi.

Those include spousal hospital visitation privileges, family health-care coverage, the ability to file joint tax returns and the right to sponsor partners in immigration, said the company’s U.S. spokeswoman Brandi Halls.

Participants signed postcards that will be delivered to the U.S. Congress, urging it to overturn the 1996 Defence of Marriage Act. The law states a marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Daphne McElroy, 18, kissed Sara Elizabeth Armstrong, 19. McElroy, who said she’s bisexual, said she went to the event to support gay rights. “I don’t think it’s fair that people are treated differently because of their sexual orientation,” she said.

At the Robson Street store in Vancouver, 23 couples kissed while eight couples puckered up in Victoria. There were smaller numbers in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton, store officials said.

Ten couples kissed in Ottawa’s Byward market, far fewer than the 40 who had RSVP’d on Facebook, said assistant manager Laura Johnston. But about 50 people who walked by the store stopped and signed the postcards, she said.

“But a surprising number ignored us and didn’t take the time to sign them,” said Johnston.

Esks halftime show could be called a bust

Jeff Funnekotter, after the Edmonton Eskimos honoured last
weekend their cheerleaders from the past five decades, and they
performed at halftime: “The musical entertainment was provided by
the Tragically Hip Replacements.” . . . As I recall, the Eskimos
were the first CFL team to have NFL-styled cheerleaders. If not,
theirs always seemed to be the most mammerable . . . RJ Currie,
after the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders played last
week before a record crowd of 62,517: “No wait; that was this year’s
Blue Jays attendance.” . . . Shovels are now banned, but I hear at
practices the Eskimos are allowing folding chairs . . . Three things
I’d like to see happen to Gary Bettman for ruining the National
Hockey League: 3. Have his office moved to Hamilton; 2. Be forced to
watch every Islanders game; 1. Live with Nancy Grace . . . Did I
just read David Letterman had affairs with Sarah Palin, Paul Shaffer
and Caster Semenya? . . . Janice Hough says many Americans just
don’t get the little nuances of hockey: “It was announced Rob Blake
will wear the ‘C’ as captain of the Sharks. Many San Jose fans
thought the ‘C’ stood for their grade in the playoffs.” . . . It is
illegal in Canada to use more than 25 pennies in a transaction,
according to Yahoo Travel. If this is true, how can CFL players cash
their cheques? . . . Paul McCallum was so upset with his demotion to
second-string kicker with the B.C. Lions, he had a load of manure
dumped on the driveway of Wally Buono’s next-door neighbour.

Cam Hutchinson

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