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— A world-famous promoter of euthanasia is set to show off his new $50 suicide machine at the national convention of the Hemlock Society here next month. Dubbed by critics the Jack Kevorkian of Australia, Dr. Philip Nitschke travels that country giving lectures about how to kill oneself and distributing plastic "Exit Bags" that accomplish the deed. According to Australia's National Review, he's also proposed purchasing a "suicide ship" to be taken into international waters for a mass euthanasia of ill and disabled people seeking to die. "I tell them what drugs are lethal and what drugs are not," he told the Sydney Morning Herald last month. "I point out the serious difficulties in getting access to drugs that are reliably and peacefully lethal." But the Nitschke-sanctioned suicide of a 79-year-old woman who was not terminally ill has set off a storm of controversy, including comments from Prime Minister John Howard, who proclaimed, "I'm appalled to think that we may have reached a situation in this country where any aid or assistance or encouragement is given to a healthy person...and I have quite strong views about euthanasia generally." Nitschke's newest invention, the COGEN machine, is designed to pump lethal carbon monoxide into the lungs. Joining Nitschke at the Hemlock Society convention, to be held beginning January 9 at the Bahia Resort Hotel on Mission Bay, will be Hawaii governor and right-to-die advocate Ben Cayetano and "radical" Episcopal bishop John Spong, according to a news release from the group. But it won't all be gloom and doom. "There will be plenty of opportunity to relax as well, starting with a two-hour harbor cruise on the evening before the convention opens. In addition, the conference features a skit by Steve Miller, editor of Goodbye, a newsletter about obituaries, who was recently featured in the New Yorker." Other speakers set to appear include Hemlock Society founder Derek Humphrey, pollster Michael Perry, and Carlos Prado of Ontario, Canada, author of The Last Choice: Preemptive Suicide in Advanced Age and Theory and Practice in Elective Death.

From the heart San Diego school-board member John de Beck, fresh from his electoral trouncing of Clyde Fuller, the ex-FBI agent and supporter of district superintendent Alan Bersin, is out with an e-mail message attacking the way in which Bersin recently revealed to Union-Tribune writer Maureen Magee his demotion of district "Chancellor of Instruction" Tony Alvarado. "Notice that I learned about this decision after Maureen did! And no local media EXCEPT the U-T had the story. Alan told me yesterday Maureen violated his agreement with her that the info was to be embargoed until Friday. Even so, neither [Frances] Zimmerman nor I had any heads up from him until Tuesday evening at 6. But he gave Magee the scoop and withheld the information from all other local media. WHY AREN'T THE TV AND RADIO STATIONS MAD? If they don't see this as managed news and a payoff for pro Bersin candidate support and leaking Lee records, then I think they are all just patsies! In a TV interview (Rory Devine) I used the fruit fly as a symbolic view of Tony's exit. 'Tony is the educational fruit fly laying his eggs in the orchard and leaving before the spray hits.' We are the host for his parasites.... But perhaps the sinking ship is a good visualization as well."

Fat city Rancho Santa Fe denizen Frederick D. Lawrence, former chief executive of San Jose's Adaptive Broadband, is under the gun. During the height of the dot-com boom, between February 2 and March 8, 2000, Lawrence sold $47.8 million of Adaptive's stock and that May bought a six-bedroom, $6 million house in Rancho on 2.4 acres, reports the San Jose Mercury News. After the market crashed, Adaptive tried to merge with another wireless broadband outfit, but the deal fell through, and four months later, in July 2001, Adaptive filed for bankruptcy. Now the bankruptcy trustee is threatening suit against Lawrence in an attempt to recover an interest-free loan of $150,000 used for "among other things, purchase of personal residences." Today "retired" as CEO and working out of his home as a "part-time venture capitalist," Lawrence told the paper that even he is concerned about bloated executive compensation. "It's right that people should worry about this. If there's the perception that someone won and lost, then nobody is going to be happy. I'm not smart enough to know how you change that."...Sixty-year-old John Casablancas, founder of the famed Elite modeling agency, which has represented supermodels Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, is being sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by an unidentified San Diego woman who claims Casablancas impregnated her when she was 15 and then arranged for an abortion. Now in her 30s, the plaintiff is said to be living here with her husband and two children.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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