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Dec. 13, 2012 at 12:00 PM   |   0 comments

Senate to vote on CIA interrogation report

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- As the Senate mulls approving a report on CIA interrogations, some critics say they are worried how a new film will influence Americans' opinion of torture.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on a 6,000-page report on CIA interrogations, which found that torture was not "a central component" in finding late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, said the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The report remains classified and likely will remain so for months, though a film about the search for bin Laden is scheduled to be released in January, The New York Times reported. Graphic torture scenes are shown throughout the first 45 minutes of the film, and though "Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter Mark Boal said the film is not a documentary, it is based on extensive research.

"I'm trying to compress a program that lasted for years into a few short scenes," he said. The film, he said, attempts "to reflect a very complex debate about torture that is still going on."

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union said he's concerned that the film opens with torture and ends with the killing of bin Laden.

"It may leave a hazy impression that it was cause and effect," he said.

Meanwhile, a judge in the case against suspected Sept. 11 plotters Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others, said details of the harsh interrogation techniques used against them will be kept secret throughout the trial, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Human rights advocates said the ruling is an attempt to hide the fact that the men were tortured.


Abbas criticizes Meshaals Israel comments

ANKARA, Turkey, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday criticized Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who called for the destruction of Israel last week.

Fatah leader Abbas said he does not agree with Meshaal, who said Hamas will never recognize Israel during his visit to Gaza.

"We recognized Israel in 1993," Abbas said during a visit to Ankara, Turkey. "There is an agreement between Fatah and Hamas that recognizes the two-state solution. Meshaal approved this agreement."

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized Abbas for not condemning Meshaal's comments outright, Haaretz reported.

The Palestinians "have absolutely no intention of compromising with us," Netanyahu said. "They want to destroy the state. They will of course fail ... The nation of Israel will overcome these hostile enemies."

The controversy comes amid unification negotiations between the rival Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas.

Abbas said now that 138 countries have voted for Palestine's non-member observer status with the United Nations, it's time to focus on the goal of unity.

"Our first step in this regard is to reach reconciliation. We have taken these steps with Hamas and Egypt," he said, referencing talks set to take place in two weeks in Cairo, Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News reported.


Berlusconi prostitution case extended

BARI, Italy, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The investigation into former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's role in a prostitution case has been extended six months, prosecutors said Thursday.

Prosecutors said they need more time to gather and examine evidence in the so-called Tarantini case concerning payments Berlusconi allegedly made to Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini in exchange for Tarantini offering false testimony in a prostitution case in which Berlusconi is a defendant, ANSA reported.

Prosecutors said Berlusconi asked former Avanti editor Valter Lavitola to pressure Tarantini into lying about a group of escorts he brought to Berlusconi's home from 2008 to 2009, when Berlusconi was prime minister.

Prosecutors charge Lavitola acted in Berlusconi's favor after Berlusconi paid him at least $654,000, ANSA said. Tarantini, his wife and two alleged collaborators later were accused by magistrates of trying to extort money from Berlusconi in exchange for their silence regarding the escorts.

Tarantini told magistrates in Bari Berlusconi didn't know the escorts were paid prostitutes, ANSA said. However, magistrates' evidence indicated Berlusconi knew he was having sex with prostitutes.


Revised report given to Zimmerman defense

SANFORD, Fla., Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The Sanford, Fla., police detective who investigated the shooting death of an unarmed teen revised his final report four times, new evidence indicated.

The new list of evidence indicated Detective Chris Serino originally recommended that Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman be charged with second-degree murder, but later recommended a charge of manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Wednesday.

Serino made all the revisions to his report during a five-hour period March 13, the evidence list indicated.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said Serino wrote in his first two drafts that he had probable cause to recommend a second-degree murder charge. But he changed the report two more times and ultimately wrote that the evidence supported the manslaughter charge.

Each version was turned over to defense attorneys Tuesday but none has been made public.

Zimmerman is free on $1 million bail pending trial on second-degree murder in the Martin shooting. The Hispanic-American said he acted in self-defense under Florida's stand your ground law when he shot and killed the unarmed black teen Feb. 26.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman profiled Martin, whom he assumed was about to commit a crime, following him and committing murder.

The case drew international outrage after police declined to arrest Zimmerman. He later was charged by Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as criticism grew.

When de la Rionda turned over to the defense the Serino report, he said he received it recently from Serino's attorney.


Gov. Brown undergoes cancer treatment

SACRAMENTO, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- California Gov. Jerry Brown is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer but the treatment and cancer shouldn't affect his work, his administration said.

State officials said Brown, 74, will continue to work while he receives radiation treatment, The Sacramento Bee reported Thursday.

"Fortunately, this is early-stage, localized prostate cancer, which is being treated with a short course of conventional radiotherapy," his doctor, oncologist Eric Small, said in a statement. "The prognosis is excellent, and there are not expected to be any significant side effects."

Brown's office said treatment should be completed in early January.

Officials declined to discuss the matter beyond the doctor's statement, including when Brown was diagnosed or began treatment, the Bee said.

In April 2011, Brown underwent a procedure to remove skin cancer from his nose.


Business, media figure Joe Allbritton dies

HOUSTON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Joe L. Allbritton, one of the most influential media and financial personalities of his generation, has died in Houston at the age of 87, his family said.

Allbritton, who died Wednesday, had been in ill health for several months, said son Robert Allbritton, publisher of Politico and chief executive officer of the privately held media company.

"Joe was, first and foremost, a beloved and loyal husband, father, grandfather and friend," his family said in a statement Wednesday. "His life was defined by a love, wit, charm and attentiveness that will be forever cherished by all of us. Joe's life was also one of great achievement, as a businessman, innovator and philanthropist. He was fiercely passionate and unfailingly generous."

Allbritton made his original fortune in banking, becoming a millionaire by age 33, Politico said.

In 1974, he bought The Washington Star, the esteemed but financially ailing afternoon newspaper founded in 1852. He owned the now-shuttered Star for four years.

Friends and associates described Allbritton as being able look at a business and determine its cost, debt, cash flow and growth potential -- something other investors missed, Politico said.

Allbritton's business acumen led to controlling stakes in Texas banks, insurance companies, a chain of funeral homes, media properties and the Riggs Bank in Washington, which was the target of a successful hostile takeover. Riggs was sold in 2005 to PNC Financial Services Group after the company paid millions of dollars in fines for its dealings with a number of foreign interests.

In her memoir, Katharine Graham, the late publisher of The Washington Post, recalled Allbritton as "a brilliant deal-maker."

He also was a philanthropist, serving on many boards, Politico said. Through the Allbritton Foundation, he supported Baylor Medical School, the Allbritton Art Institute and the Oxford Scholars. He also was financially instrumental in establishing the International School of Law, which became the George Mason Law School.

Allbritton is survived by his wife, Barbara; son, Robert, and two grandchildren.

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