Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CIA contractor Ray Davis freed in Pakistan | McClatchy

CIA contractor Ray Davis freed in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — In a sudden twist Wednesday, Raymond Davis, the American CIA contractor on trial for double murder in Pakistan, was freed after the families of the dead men forgave him, officials and reports said.

The development — likely to have resulted from a behind-the-scenes deal between Washington and Islamabad — defuses a tense diplomatic stand-off between allies Pakistan and the United States. The dispute over Davis, who Washington claimed had diplomatic immunity, had threatened relations between the two countries and their cooperation in the anti-terror fight.

The trial for Davis started Wednesday behind closed doors inside a jail in the eastern city of Lahore. After he was charged with the two murders, the families of the dead men told the court that they had forgiven him.

Confirming that Davis had been freed, the provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah, said that the court had accepted the pardon of the families. He denied speculation that the families had been forced into the agreement.

“The court would have asked and ensured that there wasn’t any pressure put on them (the families),” Sanaullah told reporters.

Under an article of Islamic law that is part of Pakistan’s penal system, the aggrieved families can forgive an accused, with “blood money” paid to compensate for a crime.

It was not immediately clear if compensation was paid in this case, but in any case, Washington was benefiting from an application of Sharia law.

Davis gunned down two men in Lahore in January, who he said were attempting to rob him, causing a public outcry in Pakistan.

Washington has always claimed Davis had diplomatic immunity and should never have been arrested. It emerged that Davis is a contractor working for the CIA. The case inflamed public opinion, which was already strongly anti-American, and the release of Davis could spark protests. The issue was taken up by Islamist political parties.

Pakistan is said to be the global headquarters of Al Qaida as well as the hideout for the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. The country’s assistance is considered vital to the success of the campaign in Afghanistan, as well as the global fight against terrorism.

But the actions of Davis had ruptured cooperation between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and fed frenzied media stories that say there are many armed Americans on the loose in Pakistan pursuing some secret, sinister agenda.

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Wholesale prices up 1.6 pct. on steep rise in food - Yahoo! Finance

Wholesale prices up 1.6 pct. on steep rise in food

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wholesale prices jumped last month by the most in nearly two years due to higher energy costs and the steepest rise in food prices in 36 years. Excluding those volatile categories, inflation was tame.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the Producer Price Index rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent in February -- double the 0.8 percent rise in the previous month. Outside of food and energy costs, the core index ticked up 0.2 percent, less than January's 0.5 percent rise.

Food prices soared 3.9 percent last month, the biggest gain since November 1974. Most of that increase was due to a sharp rise in vegetable costs, which increased nearly 50 percent. That was the most in almost a year. Meat and dairy products also rose.

Energy prices rose 3.3 percent last month, led by a 3.7 percent increase in gasoline costs.

Separately, the Commerce Department said home construction plunged to a seasonally adjusted 479,000 homes last month, down 22.5 percent from the previous month. It was lowest level since April 2009, and the second-lowest on records dating back more than a half-century.

The building pace is far below the 1.2 million units a year that economists consider healthy.

There was little sign of inflationary pressures outside of food and energy. Core prices have increased 1.8 percent in the past 12 months.

Serious jail time could result from recording cops

Serious jail time could result from recording cops

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DANVILLE - If you're thinking about recording police or other law authorities working in Illinois, you better think twice. It could cost you 15 years in prison.

Take the case of Sekiera Fitzpatrick. She was taken into custody for hiding a fugitive in her Danville home when she found out the hard way that taking a video or making a sound recording of an on-duty law enforcement official without permission is illegal.

Fitzpatrick was arrested in July after Anthony Edwards, who was wanted on a warrant, used her apartment to hide from the police. Police said they responded to the apartment after receiving a tip. Before she was put in handcuffs, officers allowed Fitzpatrick to call her mother. But instead of making the phone call, she used her phone to record her arrest.

Officer Eric Olson noticed Fitzpatrick was filming him and others, he told her that she didn't have his permission to film or record him or other officers on audio.

"I advised her she was going to be charged with eavesdropping for that," Olson said in court according to records.

That charge tripled the amount of prison time Fitzpatrick is facing because in Illinois recording an on-duty police officer without their permission carries with it the possibility of serving 15 years behind bars.

Illinois' penalty for knowingly recording audio of anyone without their consent is Class 4 felony. It is punishable by up to three years in prison. When someone like Fitzpatrick decides to record law enforcement performing their job, the charge gets ratchet up to a Class 1 felony and carries with it a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. A Class 1 felony is the same class as someone who is charged with for having more than 11 pounds of marijuana.

"Illinois is virtually unique in making it a crime to record on-duty police officers. That's because of ..., what I would say, is a defect in our eavesdropping act that other states and federal eavesdropping acts don't have, which is we've extended the ban on eavesdropping from just private conversations to all conversations, whether or not they are private," said Adam Schwartz, the senior lawyer for Illinois' American Civil Liberties Union.