Right to Die?
There are few buttons hotter than physician-assisted suicide, so it’s no surprise a “death with dignity” bill hasn’t made it to the floor of the state legislature in nearly a decade. That streak isn’t likely to end this year—on Monday the Senate Health Committee voted unanimously to quash SB803, which would have allowed “a terminally ill, competent adult to receive medication to end life.”
The bill also would have prohibited “mercy killings, lethal injections and active euthanasia,” required “informed consent” and allowed doctors to opt out and cede to another physician.
Sifting through the public testimony, it’s clear what a raw, delicate issue this is. Phrases like “slippery slope” and “duty to die” crop up often, as do poignant pleas from people who say they want to be able to end their suffering before they become physically and mentally incapacitated.
“If I have a terminal condition I would like to be able to choose to either enter into hospice, which can be a fulfilling end of life choice, or to choose to legally end my life before I am unable to tend to my own needs,” wrote Evelyn Norris of Honolulu.
Meanwhile, writing on behalf of the New York-based advocacy group Not Dead Yet, Diane Coleman said, “It’s time to listen to the disability-rights movement. We offer a different vision, as well as practical know-how and leadership to help build a society and a long-term care system in which no one feels like a burden and everyone has a real choice, not the false ‘choice’ of assisted suicide.”
Off the Earmark
Last week, Sen. Dan Inouye issued a statement announcing a two-year moratorium on so-called earmarks. Reading it, you can almost hear the Senator’s teeth gritting.
Inouye is famous for bringing home the bacon to Hawaii, and has publicly defended earmarks as a legitimate and necessary way for members of Congress to channel funds to their districts. Opponents say they’re wasteful pork, and though they represent a fraction of total discretionary spending they’ve become politically toxic.
“I continue to support the Constitutional right of members of Congress to direct investments to their states and districts under the fiscally responsible and transparent earmarking process that we have established,” said Inouye, who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. “However, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. The President has stated unequivocally that he will veto any legislation containing earmarks, and the House will not pass any bills that contain them. Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law.”
In an interview with NBC, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada was less diplomatic. Reid dismissed President Obama’s opposition to earmarks—which he inserted into his State of the Union address—as an “applause line.”
“He should just back off,” Reid added. “He’s got enough to do without messing in what we do.”
Shark Bites, Sensationalist Headlines Increase
If you only scanned the headlines, you might think there was a significant jump in the number of shark bites, particularly in the United States. “Shark Attacks Spike to 10-Year High,” declared CBS News. “U.S. Led the World in Shark Attacks Last Year,” added the Los Angeles Times.
Neither of those statements is false, just misleading. It’s true that the number of unprovoked shark bites on humans rose between 2009 and 2010—from 63 to 79 according to the International Shark Attack File. It’s also true that 36 of those bites were reported in the U.S. (four in Hawaii), more than any other country.
Problem is, those figures are statistically meaningless. Assume one billion people swam in proximity to sharks in 2010 (a very low estimate). If 63 were bitten, that would represent 0.0000063 percent. If 79 were bitten, that would represent 0.0000079 percent.
Though admittedly, “Global Shark Attacks Rise 0.0000016 Percent” isn’t quite as attention grabbing.