‘Dr Death’ sells euthanasia kits in UK for £35

Testing kits that allow people to check the strength of drugs they have bought in order to commit suicide are to be sold in the UK by one of the world’s leading advocates of euthanasia.

Dr Philip Nitschke, an Australian physician known as Dr Death for his enthusiastic promotion of a person’s right to take his own life, believes the UK is a suitable place to run a trial of the kits, which he has been developing in his laboratory. But Nitschke’s actions have revived concerns that healthy elderly and vulnerable people will end up killing themselves in the belief that they have become a burden to their families.

Why should the reason matter? Freedom to choose is the question.

Last autumn, Nitschke’s organisation, Exit International, provoked uproar in the UK when it held workshops giving people advice on how they could end their lives. One workshop in Bournemouth was cancelled after the council stepped in. However, a similar event went ahead in central London and was reported to have been well attended.

But now Exit is provoking further controversy with its plans to sell the barbiturate-testing kits here. In the latest issue of its magazine Deliverance, Exit explains how it created a purpose-built laboratory to test “end-of-life options”. The article continues: “Calibration of the chemicals involved is essential so that those using the test will be certain that the drugs they test will give them a peaceful and reliable death.

“The kit is scheduled for release in the UK in May and will be available internationally shortly after that.”

Bravo! The good doctor will now have to suffer through months of harassment. Here in the U.S. he’d run the additional risk of imprisonment – for talking about his beliefs. Not directly, of course. Our political establishment is too sophisticated for that. But, they’d work at it.

Wagoner out the door as GM CEO

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The chairman and chief executive of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, is resigning, just hours before President Obama was expected to unveil his rescue plans for G.M. and the ailing American auto industry. The unexpected move by Rick Wagoner, who has been at the helm of G.M. for eight years, was not confirmed by the company.

Mr. Wagoner was asked to step down as part of G.M.’s restructuring agreement with the Obama administration, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement has not been made yet. He then agreed to resign.

The unexpected move by Mr. Wagoner, who has been at the helm of G.M. for eight years, was not confirmed by the company. A statement about Mr. Wagoner’s future will be issued after the president’s comments, which is expected to be Monday morning…

The president’s auto task force is expected to recommend more short-term assistance to the two Detroit companies, but with tight strings attached to the money and a new deadline to get concessions from union workers and creditors.

No word on who is waiting in the wings for the gig.

U.S. mileage standards for cars up for first time in years


That’s right. Ain’t anything different on the outside.

The U.S. government has imposed the first increase in mileage standards for passenger cars and boosted the floor for sport utilities and pickups beginning with model year 2011 vehicles.

The modest increase of less than 1 mile per gallon for the fleet over current targets for the fleet represents an abbreviated approach by the Obama administration as it confronts industry distress and pressure from California and other states to set their own goals.

The standard, which is expected to cost industry $1.4 billion in vehicle design and other changes, would require compacts, sedans and other passenger cars to average 30.2 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving, up from the 27.5 mpg standard that was established in the late 1970s under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program.

Many passenger cars made by overseas manufacturers already meet or exceed the standard.

Just in case you never noticed.

Toyota Motor Corp expects its 2010 Prius hybrid to get 46 mpg while estimates for the Insight hybrid made by Honda Motor Co is 41 mpg.

Detroit’s efforts to revamp its fleet include the Ford Fusion hybrid sedan, due in showrooms this spring, that gets 41 mpg/city.

I’ll just take a line or two to whine about the lack of a smallish-diesel-powered pickup available in the U.S.. Ford makes ’em. So does Toyota. Just not for the United States.

Obama expects accountability from Pakistan


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The United States will give Pakistan the tools in needs to defeat al Qaeda, but it expects accountability in return, President Barack Obama said in an interview about his new Afghan strategy.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” program, Obama also said if the United States had al Qaeda leaders in its sights in Pakistan, it would go after them after consulting Pakistani authorities…

“One of the concerns that we’ve had building up over the last several years is a notion, I think, among the average Pakistani, that this is somehow America’s war and they are not invested,” Obama said.

“What we want to do is say to the Pakistani people — you are our friends, you are our allies. We are going to give you the tools to defeat al Qaeda and to root out these safe havens, but we also expect some accountability,” he said.

He also said the United States would go after so-called “high-value” targets in Pakistan after consulting with Pakistani authorities…”Our plan does not change the recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government,” Obama said. “We need to work with them and through them to deal with al Qaeda. But we have to hold them much more accountable.”

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Texas bill would allow guns at colleges

Officials at three Texas universities say they have serious concerns about a bill to let students carry guns on campus.

“As one faculty person told me, ‘Do you think I want to pass out those Fs and Ds with somebody in the classroom having a gun?’ ” state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth.

The bill, backed by the National Rifle Association, would be limited to students 21 and older, said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, who argues such a law would make campuses safer.

More than 70 Texas House members have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill, Driver said, noting 76 are needed to pass the legislation.

Next year, they’re gonna let ’em have books.

Spanish judge requests trial of Bush officials for torture program

Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed.

The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.

“The only route of escape the prosecutor might have is to ask whether there is ongoing process in the US against these people,” Boyé told the Observer. “This case will go ahead. It will be against the law not to go ahead.”

The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.

Personally, I’d love to see these thugs get their just due. I have some concern that the prosecution will never be more than a sideshow – since it seems unlikely they’ll ever go to trial in the United States. Our government’s focus on hauling us up from the recession guarantees that.

U.S. cooperation with extradition rarely happens unless we’re the ones looking to extradite.

Bank CEOs agree on mutual support for Obama’s economic plans


Wow! One daring guy in a pinstripe suit.

President Barack Obama won support from top bankers on Friday for his efforts to rid financial institutions of bad debts, but differences remained over broader U.S. plans for the financial industry.

Chief executives from Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and other financial giants met Obama at the White House and echoed his call for cooperation to help the economy. But their statements about tough trading conditions in March overshadowed the positive spin the executives and the White House sought to give to the meeting.

The basic message is we’re all in this thing together,” Wells Fargo Chief Executive John Stumpf told reporters after the meeting, with other bank executives at his side…

The meeting came just days after the U.S. Treasury Department provided details on a government plan to cleanse banks’ balance sheets of up to $1 trillion in distressed loans and securities, a plan the banks will have to support in order for it to work.

White House advisers said the president wanted to get a snapshot of the economy from the banking chiefs, and the message they sent was lukewarm. I watched the interviews with the CEO’s after the meeting and I’d say this Reuters account is more negative than what I witnessed.

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Police apologise for returning suicide rope to widow


The couple in better days

A police force has apologised to a widow after officers gave her the rope her husband used to hang himself.

Angie Gerrelli found the blood-stained yellow tow rope in a sack of items returned after her estranged 50-year-old partner, John Gilmore, killed himself in a park in Barry, south Wales…

Recounting the time she discovered the grisly item, Ms Gerrelli told the Barry and District News: “I reached into the bag and took out the laptop, and then I saw yellow and realised what I had in my hand.

“I went to pieces – I just sunk to the floor. I dropped it and put my hands to my face.”

Officers from the force have been spoken to by superiors about their conduct in the matter.

Well, that will sort it all out, eh?

MySpace declines as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo grab users


Courtney Holt, head of MySpace Music
Daylife/AP Photo

The “Place for Friends” is starting to feel lonely. MySpace, the Rupert Murdoch-owned website once synonymous with social networking, is losing popularity and key staff in its biggest troubles since launching five years ago…

MySpace’s loss of status as the cool place to be is an object lesson in the notoriously fickle internet, where today’s cultural icon is tomorrow’s passing fad. From humble origins in 2003, the site led the so-called “Web 2.0” revolution in which users could create their own profile pages and share content with friends. Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace for $580m was seen as a masterstroke as membership continued to soar, with celebrities and politicians joining the craze.

But then came Facebook, founded by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, which soon snowballed with an older and apparently more affluent demographic to steal MySpace’s crown. Gradually newspaper coverage of social networks switched from references to “MySpace and Facebook” to “Facebook and MySpace”. The rise of Bebo also undermined MySpace’s dominance, while Twitter is among the latest novelties eating into users’ attention spans…

There are clues behind the scenes that all is not well at Murdoch’s Fox Interactive Media, which runs the site.

Amit Kapur, MySpace’s chief operating officer, resigned after little more than a year in the post to set up a new company. He will be joined by Jim Benedetto and Steve Pearman, senior vice-presidents of engineering and product strategy.

And, no, I really don’t care. But, some of you do.