29 May 2016

Confirmed: There more planets capable of hosting life than have ever been previously substantiated

“We're talking billions, we're talking tens of billions. Even if I isolate the population to really the ones that we're very interested in, those that could potentially harbor life as we know it, that number is in excess of 10 billion in our galaxy alone.”

Since Kepler launched in 2009, 21 planets less than twice the size of Earth have been discovered in the habitable zones of their stars. The light and dark green shaded regions indicate the conservative and optimistic habitable zone.

The NASA Kepler mission scientists have confirmed a record haul of exoplanets: 1,284. The objects were all spotted in the patch of sky between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, and the announcement more than doubles the number of exoplanets, or a planet that orbits a star other than the sun, known to science.

So what does this mean for scientists who are searching the universe for signs of extra-terrestrial life? Well, according to Natalie Batalha, Kepler Mission Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, that there are way more planets capable of hosting life than previously confirmed.

We're talking billions, we're talking tens of billions,” Batalha says. Even if I isolate the population to really the ones that we're very interested in, those that could potentially harbor life as we know it, that number is in excess of 10 billion in our galaxy alone.”

The discovery of these billions of exoplanets is a result of work done by scientists in NASA’s Kepler mission.

“We're taking a census of sorts,” Batalha says. “It's like calling up a thousand people and finding out who they're voting for and extrapolating that to the larger population. We’re surveying about 200,000 stars, looking at the planets that are orbiting them at least within what we call one astronomical unit — kind of an earth orbit and inward, and then trying to understand based on those results what the population of planets is in the galaxy.” 

Batalha says she and others on her team have long suspected the existence of these planets based on periodic dimmings of light and other data they’ve collected, but they still had to do a lot of work to confirm their suspicions.

“As we look at these discoveries that are rolling in from Kepler and we crunched the numbers, we quickly realized that every star out there has at least one exoplanet orbiting it,” Batalha says.

Now, with confirmation of such a huge number of planets out there potentially capable of harboring life, Batalha says she thinks it’s almost a certainty that life outside earth exists.

“The reality is we don't know, right. I mean, we've got these goldilocks worlds — these are planets where there's the possibility that liquid water could pool on the surface. But that doesn't tell you what fraction of those are truly habitable environments where there is liquid water and where life could flourish,” Batalha says. “My impression is that microbial life is going to be ubiquitous on these worlds whether or not there's additional complexity or intelligent life … I don't know — maybe that is even rarer still … But time will tell.”

One thing Batalha is particularly interested in is learning more about planets that are much older than earth.

“I'm intrigued by the idea that there are planets out there that are twice the age of the earth,” Batalha says, “I wonder, you know, given that much time to evolve complexity and evolve life, what are the possibilities?”

So what’s next for scientists studying exoplanets? Batalha says the James Webb Space Telescope will be used to study something called transmission spectroscopy — a technique that studies a planet’s atmosphere by observing starlight filtering through that planet’s atmosphere as it transits across the disk of its star.

“The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to catch that light, spread it out into a spectrum and see those chemical fingerprints, and that's going to tell us what those atmospheres are made out of,” Batalha says. “Now the big question is, can it do that for potentially habitable — earth-sized planets? And there i'm kind of skeptical. I think James Webb is going to be really great at characterizing the atmospheres of the Neptunes, the sub-Neptunes, and, if we get lucky, maybe a smaller planet like Earth. But I think that remains to be seen. We'd have to get really lucky.”

Combined climate, orbit models show that Kepler-62f could sustain life

The planet, which is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lyra, is approximately 40 percent larger than Earth. At that size, Kepler-62f is within the range of planets that are likely to be rocky and possibly could have oceans, said Aomawa Shields, the study's lead author and a National Science Foundation astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow in UCLA's department of physics and astronomy.

NASA's Kepler mission discovered the planetary system that includes Kepler-62f in 2013, and it identified Kepler-62f as the outermost of five planets orbiting a star that is smaller and cooler than the sun. But the mission didn't produce information about Kepler-62f's composition or atmosphere or the shape of its orbit.

Shields collaborated on the study with astronomers Rory Barnes, Eric Agol, Benjamin Charnay, Cecilia Bitz and Victoria Meadows, all of the University of Washington, where Shields earned her doctorate. To determine whether the planet could sustain life, the team came up with possible scenarios about what its atmosphere might be like and what the shape of its orbit might be.

"We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water," said Shields, a University of California President's Postdoctoral Program Fellow. "This makes it a strong candidate for a habitable planet."


New Evidence Suggests a Fifth Fundamental Force of Nature

Fifth force of nature: It’s a ‘glimpse into physics beyond the visible Universe’

We all know about the four fundamental forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong forces between atoms. But could there be a fifth force still waiting to be discovered? A new experiment performed in Hungary suggests this may very well be the case.

Nature News reports that a team of physicists led by Attila Krasznahorkay of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences published a rather provocative paper late last year in Physical Review Letters (pre-print version available here) claiming that a strange radioactive decay anomaly is indicative of an unknown fundamental force. Despite the incredible claim, their paper wallowed in obscurity until physicist Jonathan Feng and his colleagues at the University of California decided to give it a closer look—and they found nothing wrong with the Hungarians’ experiment or conclusion.

The physics world is now abuzz with the possibility of a undiscovered fundamental force. Speculation about this elusive fifth force has existed for years, partly driven by the inability of the standard model of particle physics to explain dark matter—a hypothetical form of matter that comprises a huge portion of the mass and energy in the observable universe.

Theories about modified gravity have been tossed about, as have ideas about exotic-matter particles and force-carriers known as “dark photons.” And in fact, the Hungarian scientists were looking for dark photons when they stumbled upon something else.

During their experiment, the researchers fired protons at a thin strip of lithium. As it absorbed the protons, it morphed into an unstable version of beryllium, which decayed even further, spewing out pairs of electrons and positrons. When the protons smashed against the lithium at the precise angle of 140 degrees, more electrons and positrons poured out than expected. Krasznahorkay and his colleagues hypothesize that this extra stuff is coming from a new particle that’s 34 times heavier than the electron—a possible indication that there’s an undiscovered force just waiting to be found.

As the Nature News article points out, there’s a decent mix of skepticism and excitement about the experimental results. Physicists are now thinking about different ways to scrutinize this intriguing finding. Researchers at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and other groups in the United States and Europe are now working on the problem, and expect to confirm or invalidate the Hungarian experimental results in about a year.

Pro-White anti-invasion rally sweeps Paris

"The French have been silent for too long. It is time to show our determination to continue to live on our land, under our laws, our values and with respect to our identity.”


A far-right rally has been held in Paris with hundreds of young people taking to the streets to join the demonstration organized by the French anti-immigration Generation Identitaire movement to protest against “islamization.”

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Paris waving French national flags and holding giant banners with “Generation Identitaire” and “Native Youth” written on them. They also sang the Marseillaise – the French national anthem.

According to one of the witnesses, up to 500 people joined the rally.

The protesters chanted anti-immigration and anti-islamization slogans such as “No to islamization,” "the French are angry" and "Here is our home!" They also burned flares and smoke bombs.

The demonstrators marched peacefully through the streets of the French capital, without any clashes with police reported. They eventually gathered at Place Monge not far from the Natural History Museum, were they staged a rally.

The rally, which took place under the slogan “We are home!” was organized by the French far-right youth movement Generation Identitaire formed in 2012 as the youth wing of the far-right Bloc Identitaire – a regionalist nativist French and European activist movement.

The action was aimed at calling on France and Europe to remain true to their traditions, values and identity as well as to resist what they called a “migrant invasion,” according to the protest organizers.

“Between Islamist attacks and migrant invasion, the year 2015 has marked a turning point in the contemporary history of our country. The French have been silent for too long. It is time to show our determination to continue to live on our land, under our laws, our values and with respect to our identity,” the movement said in a statement published on its official website before the event.

During the rally, the protesters also criticized the French system of integration of immigrants. The current political system has made attacks on Bataclan and other places possible, on of the rally organizers, Arnaud Delrieux, said.

"It was another threat that our politicians did not consider the threat of [Islamic State]. And the worst is that all [those], who have killed for IS, these militants, extremists and terrorists are people who are born in France (...). This means that our system of integration is bad," Delrieux told Sputnik, referring to the November 2015 Paris attacks committed by the extremists from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group.

Generation Identitaire earlier provoked public controversy with its nationalist and anti-immigrant views. In March, more than a hundred protesters that took part in the Génération Identitaire rally in Calais blocked several routes for migrants, preventing them from gaining access to the city.

In early April, the movement tried to stage a rally in Brussels’s mostly-Muslim district of Molenbeek in defiance of the authorities' ban. Two people ended up arrested with weapons and Molotov cocktails.

Before the rally, Génération Identitaire called Molenbeek a “breeding ground” for jihadists in a statement, in which it urged people to gather under the slogan “Expel the Islamists!”

Austrian pro-White, Freedom Party leader says 'countless' signs of election fraud

"The result of the election could change." -- Freedom Party (FPOe) head Heinz-Christian Strache

Austria's far-right is probing "countless" cases of fraud in last week's presidential election that saw its candidate lose by a narrow margin, the party chief was quoted as saying Sunday.

"We are going to get the countless indications (of irregularities) looked at by an independent, neutral body and then decide" whether to challenge the result, Freedom Party (FPOe) head Heinz-Christian Strache said.

"There are lots of indications coming from voters, and so far five criminal complaints where the law was obviously broken," he told the populist Kronen-Zeitung daily in an interview published Sunday.

"The result of the election could change," Strache said.

Last Sunday's election saw the FPOe's candidate Norbert Hofer fail by just 31,026 votes to become the European Union's first president from the continent's increasingly popular anti-immigration far-right.

Prompting huge relief from Europe's centrist parties, former Green Party chief Alexander Van der Bellen was instead declared to have won the runoff for Austria's largely ceremonial but coveted presidency.

Mirroring the rise of other populists in Europe and beyond, Hofer had tapped into unease about immigration and Austria's faltering economy to win support not just among poorer, less educated voters but across the board.

Last week Austrian authorities said they were investigating several cases of alleged election irregularities.

For the most part, however, the allegations concerned postal votes being opened for counting too early, which experts say is thought unlikely to change the overall result.

Strache meanwhile has been forced to call for supporters to tone down their rhetoric after some fans called for violence against Van der Bellen and even published his address on Strache's popular Facebook page.

According to press reports, this has prompted police to beef up security around Van der Bellen.

The FPOe is now looking ahead to the next general elections, due in 2018. The party is leading the opinion polls with more than 30 percent, while the two centrist parties in the governing coalition look set to fall short of a majority.

In a Gallup poll of 600 people published Sunday by the Oesterreich daily newspaper, the FPOe was in first place on 34 percent. The Social Democrats (SPOe) of Chancellor Christian Kern were on 24 percent, their centre-right coalition partners the People's Party (OeVP) on 21 percent.

28 May 2016

State Rep: Declaration of Independence Is Racist

Maybe she'd like the updated version better.

The Declaration of White Independence: A unilateral assertion offered to and for consideration by the European Descended People of the fifty united States of America and all people of European descent regardless of spacial or temporal propinquity.


A bill mandating that schoolchildren in Louisiana be taught the Declaration of Independence is being opposed by a state lawmaker.

Louisiana State Rep. Barbara Norton (D) said, "For the Declaration of Independence, only Caucasians [were] free. And for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it's a little bit unfair."

A New Shrine for White Patriots: Greek Archaeologist Says He Has Found Aristotle’s Tomb

And they can't take this one away.

ATHENS — A Greek archaeologist who has been leading a 20-year excavation in northern Greece said on Thursday that he believed he had unearthed the tomb of Aristotle.

In an address at a conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, commemorating the 2,400th anniversary of Aristotle’s birth, the archaeologist, Konstantinos Sismanidis, said he had “no proof but strong indications, as certain as one can be,” to support his claim.

The tomb was in a structure unearthed in the ancient village of Stagira, where Aristotle was born, about 40 miles east of Thessaloniki. According to Mr. Sismanidis, the structure was a monument erected in Aristotle’s honor after his death in 322 B.C.

“We had found the tomb,” he said. “We’ve now also found the altar referred to in ancient texts, as well as the road leading to the tomb, which was very close to the city’s ancient marketplace within the city settlement.”

Although the evidence of whose tomb it was is circumstantial, several characteristics — its location and panoramic view; its positioning at the center of a square marble floor; and the time of its construction, estimated to be at the very beginning of the Hellenistic period, which started after the death of Aristotle’s most famous student, Alexander the Great, in 323 B.C. — “all lead to the conclusion that the remains of the arched structure are part of what was once the tomb-shrine of Aristotle,” Mr. Sismanidis said.

Aristotle, who was born in 384 B.C., was a pupil of Plato in Athens and became a crucial figure in the emergence of Western philosophy. His work forms the basis of modern logic, and his metaphysics became an integral part of Christian theology. His “Poetics” still offers penetrating analysis of what works, and does not work, in theater. King Philip II of Macedon engaged him as a tutor to his son Alexander.

A separate excavation in another part of northern Greece, Amphipolis, in 2014 led to the discovery of the largest ancient tomb ever found in the country. Speculation linking the tomb to Alexander the Great set off huge media interest, but archaeologists later concluded that it had probably been built for a close companion of the king and conqueror.

Rosetta spacecraft finds key building blocks for life in a comet

Comets could have sparked life on Earth as building blocks of DNA found in space

Scientists for the first time have directly detected key organic compounds in a comet, bolstering the notion that these celestial objects delivered such chemical building blocks for life long ago to Earth and throughout the solar system.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft made several detections of the amino acid glycine, used by living organisms to make proteins, in the cloud of gas and dust surrounding Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, scientists said on Friday.

Glycine previously was indirectly detected in samples returned to Earth in 2006 from another comet, Wild 2. But there were contamination issues with the samples, which landed in the Utah desert, that complicated the scientific analysis.

"Having found glycine in more than one comet shows that neither Wild 2 nor 67P are exceptions," said Rosetta scientist Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern in Switzerland, who led the research published in the journal Science Advances.

The discovery implies that glycine is a common ingredient in regions of the universe where stars and planets have formed, Altwegg said.

Altwegg and colleagues also found phosphorus, a key element in all living organisms, and other organic molecules in dust surrounding comet 67P. It was the first time phosphorus was found around a comet.Scientists have long debated the circumstances around the origin of life on Earth billions of years ago, including the hypothesis that comets and asteroids carrying organic molecules crashed into the oceans on the Earth early in its history. "Meteorites and now comets prove that Earth has been seeded with many critical biomolecules over its entire history," said University of Washington astronomer Donald Brownlee, who led NASA’s Stardust comet sample return mission. Scientists plan to use Rosetta to look for other complex organic compounds around the same comet.

"You need more than amino acids to form a living cell," Altwegg said. "It's the multitude of molecules which make up the ingredients for life." Rosetta is due to end its two-year mission at 67P by flying very close to the comet and then crash-land onto its surface this September.

67P is in an elliptical orbit that loops around the sun between the orbits of the planets Jupiter and Earth. The comet is heading back out toward Jupiter after reaching its closest approach to the sun last August.

27 May 2016

New pro-White party formed in Denmark

A NEW right-wing party is emerging in Denmark after its leadership blasted the ruling group’s immigration policy as “far too soft”.

Leader of the New Civil Party, Pernille Vermund

Leader of the New Civil Party, Pernille Vermund, slammed the approach to migrants and urged for radical response including introducing armed border posts and sending all asylum seekers back to their home countries.

In just seven months the conservative politician has received over 9,000 support declarations - more than half of what the new party needs to quality for official party status. 

The New Civil Party appears to be a part of an increasing rise of the right as anger grows towards the response of the unprecedented migrant crisis in Europe. 

Ms Vermund said the party would take a hard line on refugee and immigration policy, in addition to the promise of tax cuts.

The right-wing politician said: “We will withdraw from the Refugee Convention, and then we will stop all asylum treatment in Denmark. Send home the immigrants who are here on temporary stay.

“Even if it means that we send people back to war-torn countries.”

Ms Vermund also revealed she intends to introduce a tough policy on non-Danish citizens already in the country, with those unable to provide for themselves at risk of deportation. 

The New Civil is just one of many ultra-conservative parties emerging in the country with a poll showing 13 per cent of Danes want a group more right than the current ruling Danish People's Party. 

Experts have now said there is a real chance of a more right-wing party gaining official party status, but added it was unlikely a new conservative group would gain seats in Parliament.

Attacking that prediction the party will not gain momentum, Ms Vermund said experts have been wrong before and it is up to the Danish people to decide. 

The Danes’ bid for hardline policies comes Austria’s anti-immigration party leader Norbert Hofer was narrowly defeated in the country's presidential rigged election, preventing him from becoming the EU's first far-right head of state.

Austria’s far-right party has surged in popularity, capitalising on Europe’s migrant crisis and widespread dissatisfaction with traditional parties in power.

Triumph for the Freedom Party would have been a landmark victory for resurgent populist parties across Europe as far-right parties continue to gain ground. 

After the election, Mr Hofer expressed his disappointment on social media: "Of course I am sad today. I would have liked to take care of our wonderful country for you as president.”

26 May 2016

Journalists blast NY Times for pro-Israel bias and “grotesque” distortion of illegal occupation of Palestine

Glenn Greenwald condemned the New York Times' "cowardice" on Israel, accusing it of "journalistic malfeasance"

“This is journalistic malfeasance at its worst: refusing to describe the world truthfully out of fear of the negative reaction by influential factions.” -- Glenn Greenwald

Advocates for Palestinian human rights, journalists and progressive media watchdogs have long accused the New York Times of biased, pro-Israel coverage.

The Times regularly fails to mention that the Palestinian territories have been illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. It often uses euphemistic language to describe Israel’s illegal activity, dubbing lands unlawfully seized by Israel in violation of international law “disputed” territory.

Rights activists have been so frustrated by the publication’s skewed reporting that, in February, activists from progressive Jewish human rights groups created a very convincing-looking fake edition of the Times to protest its coverage of Israel-Palestine.

Criticism was reignited on Thursday, after the U.S. newspaper of record once again called into question Israel’s illegal occupation.

Two of the members of the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee who were appointed by Bernie Sanders criticized Israel on Wednesday, condemning its occupation and war crimes in Gaza and calling for a more even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In its report on the comments by the committee members — Cornel West, the renowned scholar and activist, and James Zogby, a longtime pro-Palestinian advocate and president of the Arab American Institute — the Times misleadingly implied that there is debate around Israel’s almost five-decade-long military occupation.

In reality, the entire international community, including the U.S., has acknowledged since the occupation began in 1967 that it is illegal.

This did not stop Times reporters Jason Horowitz and Maggie Haberman from writing the word “occupation” in scare quotes in the article, leading to backlash from journalists.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald slammed “The New York Times’s (and Clinton campaign’s) abject cowardice collusion on Israel” in an article in The Intercept, calling the use of the scare quotes “grotesque.”

On social media, Greenwald and other journalists called out the Times and its reporters.

“The refusal to use the word occupation without scare quotes is one of the most cowardly editorial decisions the New York Times has made since refusing to use the word ‘torture’ because the Bush administration denied its validity (a decision they reversed only when President Obama in 2014 gave them permission to do so by using the word himself),” Greenwald wrote in his article.

“This is journalistic malfeasance at its worst: refusing to describe the world truthfully out of fear of the negative reaction by influential factions,” he added.

25 May 2016

Life Engendering Solar Processes May Have Helped Seed Life on Earth, NASA Says

If a massive solar storm struck the Earth today, it could wipe out our technology and hurl us back to the dark ages. Lucky for us, events like this are quite rare. But four billion years ago, extreme space weather was probably the norm. And rather than bringing the apocalypse, it might have kickstarted life.

That’s the startling conclusion of research published in Nature Geoscience today, which builds on an earlier discovery about young, sun-like stars made with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Baby suns, it turns out, are extremely eruptive, releasing mind-boggling amounts of energy during “solar superflares” that make our wildest space weather look like drizzle.

Now, NASA’s Vladimir Airapetian has shown that if our sun was equally active 4 billion years ago, it could have made the Earth more habitable. According to Airapetian’s models, as solar superflares pounded our atmosphere, they initiated chemical reactions that yielded climate-warming greenhouse gases and other essential ingredients for life.

“The Earth should have been in a deep freeze four billion years ago,” Airapetian told Gizmodo, referring to the “faint young sun paradox” first raised by Carl Sagan and George Mullen in 1972. The paradox came about when Sagan and Mullen realized that Earth had signs of liquid water as early as 4 billion years ago, while the sun was only 70 percent as bright as it is today. “The only way [to explain this] is to somehow incorporate a greenhouse effect,” Airapetian said.

Another early Earth puzzle is how the first biological molecules—DNA, RNA and proteins—scavenged enough nitrogen in order to form. Similar to today, the ancient Earth’s atmosphere was composed primarily of inert nitrogen gas (N2). While specialized bacteria called “nitrogen fixers” eventually figured out how to break N2 and turn it into ammonia (NH4), early biology lacked this ability.

The new study offers an elegant solution to both of these problems in the form of space weather. The research began several years back, when Airapetian was studying the magnetic activity of stars in NASA’s Kepler database. He discovered that G-type stars (stars like our sun) are like dynamite in their youth, frequently releasing pulses of energy equivalent to over 100 trillion atomic bombs. The most powerful solar storm ever experienced by humans, the 1859 Carrington event that caused worldwide power outages, pales in comparison.

“It is a crazy amount of energy. I can hardly comprehend it myself,” Ramses Ramirez—an astrobiologist at Cornell University who was not involved with the study but collaborates with Airapetian—told Gizmodo.

It soon occurred to Airapetian that he could use this discovery to peer back into the early history of our solar system. He calculated that 4 billion years ago, our sun could have been releasing dozens of superflares every few hours, with one or more grazing the Earth’s magnetic field every single day. “Basically, the Earth was under constant attack from super Carrington-sized events,” he said.

Using numerical models, Airapetian then showed that solar superflares would be strong enough to dramatically compress Earth’s magnetosphere, the magnetic shield that encircles our planet. Not only that, charged solar particles would bust a hole clean through the magnetosphere near our planet’s poles, entering the atmosphere and colliding with nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. “So now you have these particles interacting with molecules in the atmosphere and creating new molecules—like a chain reaction,” Airapetian said.

These solar-atmospheric interactions produce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with 300 times the global warming potential of CO2. Airapetian’s models suggest that enough nitrous oxide could have been produced to dramatically warm the planet. Another product of the endless solar storm, hydrogen cyanide (HCN), could have fertilized the surface with the nitrogen needed to form the early building blocks of life.

“People have looked at lightning and falling meteorites as ways to initiate nitrogen chemistry,” Ramirez said. “I think the coolest thing about this paper is that nobody had really thought about looking at solar storms.”

It’ll be up to biologists to determine whether the exact mix of molecules produced via superflares would have been enough to jumpstart life. That investigation is already underway. Researchers at the Earth Life Sciences Institute in Tokyo and elsewhere are now using Airapetian’s models to devise new experiments that simulate conditions on the ancient Earth. If those experiments can produce amino acids and RNA building blocks, that would go a long way toward supporting the idea that space weather helped get life started.

In addition to helping piece together our origin story, Airapetian’s models could shed light on the past habitability of Mars, which appears to have also been wet four billion years ago despite receiving even less radiation from the young sun. The study could have implications for life beyond our solar system, too.

We’re just starting to figure out what constitutes a star’s “habitable zone,” where planets with liquid water oceans might exist. But the current habitable zone definition only factors in the brightness of the parent star. With more detailed information on a star’s explosive activity, we might be able to glean more about the chemistry of exoplanet atmospheres, and the potential for a strong greenhouse effect to take hold.

“Ultimately, this will inform us whether the energy from a star is available in a way that can create the chemistry to create biomolecules,” Airapetian said. “Without that, it would be a miracle to have life.”

22 May 2016

Austria’s presidential race: Far-right Hofer wins with 51.9%

Austrian far right Freedom Party (FPOe) presidential candidate Norbert Hofer at a a final election rally in Vienna

Norbert Hofer, the candidate of Austria’s populist Freedom Party, is leading in the race to become the nation’s next president with an estimated 51.9 percent of the vote, according to the first prediction based on early results published by public broadcaster ORF.

Green Party-backed Alexander Van der Bellen was predicted to get 48 percent of the vote after Sunday’s runoff election, with most of the votes counted. The projection has an error margin of 2 percent, according to pollster SORA.

The presidential runoff followed four weeks of political upheaval caused when the European Union-skeptical, anti-immigration Freedom Party came out ahead in an initial round, triggering a government crisis as neither of the governing parties could secure enough support to progress to the runoff.


Austria Freedom Party's Hofer Wins Race for Presidency

Austrian far right Freedom Party (FPOe) presidential candidate Norbert Hofer at a a final election rally in Vienna

Norbert Hofer, the candidate of Austria’s populist Freedom Party, is leading in the race to become the nation’s next president with an estimated 51.9 percent of the vote, according to the first prediction based on early results published by public broadcaster ORF.

Green Party-backed Alexander Van der Bellen was predicted to get 48 percent of the vote after Sunday’s runoff election, with most of the votes counted. The projection has an error margin of 2 percent, according to pollster SORA.

The presidential runoff followed four weeks of political upheaval caused when the European Union-skeptical, anti-immigration Freedom Party came out ahead in an initial round, triggering a government crisis as neither of the governing parties could secure enough support to progress to the runoff.


21 May 2016

Fear of invaders and loathing of ZOG elites drive a small Austrian town to the pro-White side

Frustrated voters could hand the country’s presidency to the populist Norbert Hofer on Sunday after rejecting the major parties

Left to right: Freedom party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, candidate Norbert Hofer and party member Ursula Stenzel attend Hofer’s final rally in Vienna on 20 May

Anyone who wants a glimpse of what kind of country Austria might turn into after this weekend’s presidential elections could do worse than visit the town of Wels in Upper Austria.

A majority vote tonight for Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party (FPO) would not only confront the EU with a far-right president in its midst for the first time, but could send Austria on a journey towards becoming an autocratic, illiberal state more akin to Viktor Orbán’s Hungary than Angela Merkel’s Germany.

There are fears that Hofer could use the instruments of the president’s office – previously interpreted as a mainly ceremonial role by the centrist politicians who have held the post in the past – to dissolve the government and usher in a chancellor from his own party, which is currently leading in the polls. In a TV debate, Hofer ominously said: “You will be surprised what can be done [by a president].”

In Wels, a community of 60,000 that was a capital city in the days of the Roman empire, the nightmare of Austrian liberals has already become a reality. A stronghold of the social democratic SPO party since the end of the second world war, the city elected its first rightwing mayor last year. In last month’s first round of the presidential election, 39% of Welsians voted for the rightwing Hofer, four percentage points more than voted for the right in the country as a whole.

The town’s new mayor, Andreas Rabl, has an appeal similar to that of the presidential candidate: a youthful, 44-year-old lawyer with a penchant for bright blue socks, he looks and sounds nothing like the beer hall rabble-rousers who have previously dominated the party in the regions. Rabl even owns a collection of paintings by the Viennese actionist painter Hermann Nitsch – an artist so lacking in folksy Alpine appeal that the Freedom party in Lower Austria has been trying to close down a museum dedicated to his work.

When the Freedom party last rose to prominence, entering government under its late leader, Jörg Haider, in 2000, it was still firmly rooted in Carinthia, in the deep rural south. Under the party’s current leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, and Hofer, who is one of Strache’s close allies, the FPO has expanded, managing to win voters both in Vienna’s working-class districts and more bourgeois areas such as the Wels town centre.

The party has tried to shed memories of its antisemitic history, with Strache and Hofer repeatedly paying visits to Israel. Instead, the Freedom party has focused on an anti-Islam, anti-refugee message. “Islamism is the new fascism,” Strache has said.

Yet once in office the party draws from a more conventional rightwing playbook. In Wels, which has a proportionally higher migrant population than other parts of Austria, Rabl has introduced a “value codex” for nurseries, which prescribes that children aged four to six should be able to recite by heart five German-language poems and five songs. Migrants who refuse to send their children to nursery face cuts in benefits.

At the same time, Rabl has vouched to cut down the operational deficit of his social democrat predecessors, promising to save the city 40m euros per year. The Alter Schlachthof, a cultural centre with a youth club and a workshop for women which are used by many of the town’s minorities, faces a 10% cut in its budget. One of the eight youth worker jobs has been cut.

His proudest achievement is hard to miss. The annual maypole has been moved from a corner next to the town hall into the centre of the town square. Its raising was celebrated with a festival, including a dance by performers in dirndls and lederhosen.

The global rise of a new populist right – from America’s Donald Trump via France’s Marine Le Pen to Britain’s Brexit campaign – is often attributed in part to a fear of globalisation and its symptoms, from migration movements to increased job insecurity. At a political debate at Vienna’s Burgtheater last Tuesday, journalist Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi suggested that “we in the arts have only benefited from globalisation. Yet, if an electrician is worried about an Afghan or a Syrian taking his job, he may have a point.”