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News Briefs, part 1

Packwood Seeks Further Delay In Release of Diaries

The Baltimore Sun

Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Ore., carried to a higher court yesterday his running fight with Senate ethics investigators over the privacy of his personal diaries, asking for more time to let the constitutional dispute unfold.

In a request for a speedy ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here, Packwood also sought a delay in any release of his diaries to the Senate Ethics Committee for use in its investigation of misconduct charges.

U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Jackson has ruled that Packwood has no constitutional right to withhold the diaries from the committee. Still, the judge has given the senator until Feb. 22 to pursue an appeal.

The senator claims that the committee's demand for his taped diaries and the written transcripts of them is unconstitutionally broad, allowing the investigators to "rummage" through his private life. The diaries, the lawyer said, deal not only with his work as a senator, but also "his innermost thoughts on a wide variety of private, personal matters."

In addition, the senator fears that the committee inquiry will force him, through the diaries, to give evidence against himself that could be used in a Justice Department criminal investigation.

Doctor Helps Canadian Woman Commit Suicide

The Washington Post

A 43-year-old Canadian woman who turned her debilitating illness into a national crusade for the right to die, apparently has had the last word about the way her life would end.

Sue Rodriguez, who in 1991 was found to have the degenerative nerve condition known as Lou Gehrig's disease, died Saturday at her home in Victoria, British Columbia, according to police and Svend Robinson, a close friend and member of Parliament who has championed laws permitting physician-assisted suicide.

Svend said yesterday that he was with Rodriguez when a doctor he declined to identify arrived and carried out her wishes. Royal Canadian Mounted Police have announced an investigation into her death -- and Robinson's role in it -- and said an autopsy would be performed to determine if she died by lethal injection.

Choking back tears as he recounted the events of Saturday afternoon, Robinson told reporters that Rodriguez made her final plans a month ago. He said she had shared a last meal Friday evening with her husband and 9-year-old son, who were absent during Rodriguez's final hours the next day. "She was serene and calm throughout," Robinson said.

The death of Rodriguez is likely to stoke the national debate fueled by her long campaign to end her life. Canadian anti-euthanasia laws mirror those being tested in Michigan by Jack Kevorkian, known as the "suicide doctor," and other right-to-die activists.

Senator Kennedy's GOP Rivals Caught in Sniping Match

Special to The Washington Post

The Republicans vying for the right to take on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., in the fall seem determined to decimate each other by spring.

The sniping started earlier this month with a campaign kickoff by Mitt Romney, a Boston business consultant and son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney. Even before Romney declared, an aide to another Republican candidate, radio personality Janet Jeghelian, raised questions about his religious affiliation.

Romney is a Mormon, a rarity in Massachusetts, and -- like all Mormon men -- holds a lay adult position in the church. The Jeghelian aide said Romney would be at a disadvantage against Kennedy because he would have to spend time explaining his religion and squaring his campaign positions with his church's views on issues such as abortion.

The tactic backfired, and the aide, Gene Hartigan, was reined in by Jeghelian. Analysts said they found it bizarre for a candidate to raise doubts about another contender's religion -- especially against Kennedy, whose brother, John, fought anti-Catholic bigotry in the 1960 presidential primaries.