news briefs for oct 6 2015

By Tribune News Service

California governor signs controversial assisted-suicide bill in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Caught between conflicting moral arguments, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, on Monday signed a measure allowing physicians in the nation’s most populous state to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.

Approving the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church, appeared to be a gut-wrenching decision for the 77-year-old governor, who as a young man studied to enter the priesthood.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown added. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

California becomes the fifth state to allow so-called assisted suicide, following Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

The new law is modeled after Oregon’s. It permits physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months.

The law will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its special session on health care, which may not be until next year. The earliest likely adjournment would be in January.

—Los Angeles Times

Obama announces new measures to crack down on illegal fishing

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday announced plans to further crack down on illegal fishing, a global problem that can hurt both fishing communities in impoverished nations and the seafood industry in the United States.

As part of a package of initiatives announced in a video message to participants at a major oceans conference in Chile, President Barack Obama announced new steps to tackle illegal fishing. They include the launching of a program called “Sea Scout,” designed to increase cooperation among nations seeking to identify and prosecute illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing around the globe.

Experts say the problem is extensive around the world.

The Pew Charitable Trusts said the issue is difficult to quantify, but that experts estimate that illegal and unreported fishing cost the global economy up to $23 billion annually.

—McClatchy Washington Bureau

Wildlife thriving in region around Chernobyl nuclear power plant, study says

A new study of wildlife in the radiation-contaminated Chernobyl exclusion zone has found that many large mammal populations — elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar and wolves — seem to be thriving.

The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, hint that when it comes to threats to wildlife, a nuclear disaster may actually be less harmful than human encroachment.

The research may also help scientists understand the effects on wildlife from other such disasters, such as the 2011 meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in the then Soviet Union was among the world’s most catastrophic nuclear disasters. An explosion and a fire at the plant released a plume of radioactive material into the atmosphere, spreading over several countries and triggering the permanent evacuation of an estimated 116,000 people from the 1,622-square-mile Chernobyl exclusion zone.

But wild animals can’t be told to evacuate, and so researchers long thought that the radiation would result in deleterious consequences for the wildlife in the area.

—Los Angeles Times

Russian warplane violates Turkish airspace, drawing criticism in West

BEIRUT — A Russian fighter jet breached Turkish air space this weekend, prompting Ankara to scramble F-16 fighters and issue a stern warning, Turkish authorities said Monday.

According to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Ankara, the Russian jet crossed into the nation’s airspace on Saturday above Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, which borders Syria.

The Russian jet exited Turkish skies after it was intercepted by a pair of Turkish air force F-16s, the statement said.

The incident marks the first reported violation since Russian warplanes began operations last week in support of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and drew quick criticism from U.S. and other NATO officials.

In Madrid for a visit, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon was in contact with Turkey and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization concerning protest of the violation and how to guard against future incursions.

Russia’s airstrikes in Syria, now in its sixth day, are only inflaming an already volatile situation, Carter said while at Spain’s Ministry of Defense in downtown Madrid.

“Right now, they’re way off track,” he said.

NATO member Turkey is the alliance’s eastern bulwark. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu and convened a meeting to discuss the situation.

“I urge Russia to take the necessary steps to align its efforts with those of the international community in the fight against ISIL,” Stoltenberg said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State, the al-Qaida breakaway faction that controls vast stretches of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

—Tribune Washington Bureau