Dispatches > Human Race

Human Race

Issue: "Upside down," April 9, 2011

Died

A Christian man serving a life sentence at a prison in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy died March 15 under suspicious circumstances. Last year a Pakistani court convicted Qamar David, 57, for allegedly sending derogatory text messages about Muhammad. Former lawyer Pervaiz Chaudhry says David received death threats from the start of his trial, and he questions jail reports suggesting David died from a heart attack. David is at least the fourth person in Pakistan to die this year in blasphemy-related cases.

Died

Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor, who debuted at the age of 9 and appeared in more than 50 films over the course of her 70-year career, died March 23 at the age of 79. One of the most popular actresses of Hollywood's golden age, the two-time Academy Award winner's off-screen life was characterized by divorces, health problems, and eccentricity. Taylor devoted her later years to charity, raising millions for AIDS research and treatment.

Ousted

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Miami-Dade County voters ousted Republican Mayor Carlos Alvarez in a recall vote fueled by constituent frustration over unpopular policy decisions, including property tax increases in the midst of pay raises to public-sector employees. Billionaire car dealer Norman Braman, who poured nearly $1 million into the grassroots effort, said he "wanted to empower the people of this community to take back their government." Some 88 percent of 200,347 voters supported removing Alvarez from office.

Released

Haitian officials released American missionary Daniel Pye, 29, from prison March 16 after holding him for five months without charges. Pye, who runs an orphanage in the southern city of Jacmel, was initially jailed during a property dispute with fellow missionaries, but after the matter was resolved authorities rearrested him on suspicion of having an invalid residency card.

Restored

Conservators at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History are in the process of restoring the "Jefferson Bible," an 1820 volume that Thomas Jefferson created by putting Jesus' life in chronological order. Titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, it includes passages in English, Latin, French, and Greek but omits the resurrection and Jesus' miracles.

Paid

A CIA contractor accused in the January killing of two Pakistani men walked free March 16 after the victims' families received a blood money payment of $2.3 million from an undisclosed source. Raymond Davis, 36, says he was acting in self-defense when he shot the armed men during an apparent robbery attempt, but locals have speculated that he was a spy. His release sparked protests among Pakistanis who accused the government of bowing to U.S. pressure.

Fled

Marisol Valles, the 20-year-old criminology college student who last fall took over as police chief in Práxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, one of Mexico's dangerous border towns, has fled to the United States after receiving repeated death threats. She is now reportedly seeking asylum and awaiting a hearing before a U.S. federal immigration judge.

Resigned

Lu Hardin, president of the nondenominational Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, has resigned after pleading guilty to money laundering and wire fraud. Hardin admitted to forging documents in order to take an early bonus from his previous employer, the University of Central Arkansas. He reportedly used the money to pay off gambling debts.

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