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News Briefs

Lethal Injection May Give Peaceful Mask to Painful Death

The New York Times -- NASHVILLE, Tenn.

At the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution here, through a set of double doors next to several vending machines, a gurney stands ready to deliver prisoners to their executions by lethal injection.

Just about every aspect of the death penalty provokes acrimonious debate, but this method of killing, by common consensus, is as humane as medicine can make it.

But a growing number of legal and medical experts are warning that the apparent tranquility of a lethal injection may be deceptive. They say the standard chemical combination used to execute people in most states could, especially in the hands of inexperienced prison personnel, lead to paralysis that masks intense distress, leaving a wide-awake inmate unable to speak or cry out as he slowly suffocates.

In 2001, it became a crime for veterinarians in Tennessee to use one of the chemicals in that standard protocol to euthanize pets.

The chemical, pancuronium bromide, paralyzes the skeletal muscles but does not affect the brain or nerves. By itself, it leaves a person conscious but unable to move or speak.

In Tennessee and about 30 other states, the chemical is used in combination with two others. But a judge here recently found that pancuronium bromide itself has “no legitimate purpose.”

Calif. Recall Campaign Draws To Tumultuous Close

The Boston Globe


After days of scandalous accusations and increasingly bitter attacks, the California recall campaign drew to a tumultuous close late Monday with as much uncertainty as it began.

Some polls indicated the race had tightened; others indicated Republican front-runner Arnold Schwarzenegger had widened his lead. Golden State voters, meanwhile, faced a dizzying list of ballot options and voting techniques that could leave Tuesday’s vote open to calls for a recount and assorted legal challenges.

In the campaign’s closing hours, Schwarzenegger insisted that allegations that he had groped as many as 15 women had not affected his popularity. Many of his supporters contended the negative stories were part of a political smear campaign. But advisers to Governor Gray Davis circulated figures, mainly collected by their own pollsters, indicating a decline in the number of voter expressing certainty that they would vote to oust the sitting Democratic governor.

South Korea Debating Sending Troops to Iraq

The New York Times -- SEOUL, South Korea

With the Bush administration pressing South Korea to send up to 5,000 combat troops to Iraq, South Korea’s president is setting a price: progress by Washington in reducing tensions with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

“I fear that if we decide to go ahead and send troops, it would not help achieve the second round of six-way talks over North Korea’s nuclear program, or an agreement to be reached,” President Roh Moo-hyun said on Friday, the latest of a series of statements linking a dispatch of troops to Iraq to defusing tensions with North Korea.

Since May, South Korea, a longtime American ally, has had about 675 military medics and engineers working out of an American base in Nasiriya, in southern Iraq. But there were violent protests here last spring over the decision to send them.