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News Briefs I

Appeals Court Rejects Challenge To Assisted Suicide Law

The Washington Post

A federal appeals court Thursday dismissed a closely watched challenge to an Oregon law allowing the terminally ill to hasten death with the help of a physician.

In 1994 Oregon voters became the first in the nation to adopt a law making physician-assisted suicide legal. But the measure never took effect after a group of patients, physicians and other care givers challenged the law by arguing it would allow sick people, especially those who were depressed, to be pressured into suicide.

A federal district judge agreed the law was unconstitutional in 1995, ruling that the law discriminated against the terminally ill.

Thursday's opinion effectively reversed that ruling. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously said the challengers had not shown that they faced any immediate threat of harm under the law and lacked legal "standing" to bring the case.

Richard Coleson, one of the lawyers for the challengers, said Thursday the 9th Circuit decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Both Coleson and Oregon Deputy Attorney General David Schuman said Thursday that the act is likely to remain on hold through the next phase of the litigation.

Pentagon Says Most Gulf War Chemical Weapons Records Gone

The Baltimore Sun

Pentagon officials acknowledged Thursday that more than 80 percent of its records concerning the chemical or biological weapons that U.S. troops encountered during the Persian Gulf war are missing - far more than previously known.

At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, several senators raised doubts about the military's competence in the matter. The Pentagon explained that some records, covering August 1990 to March 1991, were lost in an office move and that computer glitches wiped out others, a development that one senator called "really very perplexing."

The senators also criticized the Defense Department Thursday for waiting years to investigate reports that U.S. soldiers might have been exposed to chemical munitions. The Pentagon acknowledged this week that the CIA told top Army commanders about possible chemical weapons in an area that included the Kamisiyah weapons depot, shortly before that depot was destroyed by U.S. troops in March 1991.

Some Army units were informed, the Pentagon said, although the troops who actually blew up the depot were not. Some Gulf War veterans contend that exposure to chemical weapons caused the dizziness, stiff joints and other serious and mysterious ailments that many veterans have complained about.

Two Senators Inclined To Back Lake for CIA

The Washington Post

Two Republican members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are "inclined" to support the nomination of CIA Director-designate Anthony Lake, their aides said Thursday, nearly assuring that the panel would back Lake.

Sens. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., and John H. Chafee, R-R.I., both considered GOP moderates, told the Associated Press they expect Lake to be confirmed and at present plan to support him. Assuming Lake gets the support of all nine Democrats on the 19-member committee as expected, he would need only one Republican vote to win panel approval.

Aides sought afterward to hedge the senators' comments, saying Lugar and Chafee were withholding final commitment until Lake answers questions at his twice-delayed confirmation hearing.

Nevertheless, the prospect that Lake would get the panel's approval increased pressure on Lake's conservative opponents to find another means for holding up the nomination of President Clinton's former national security adviser to the nation's top intelligence post.