Assisted dying expansion, preventing vehicle attacks

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The senator who pushed for Canada’s assisted dying regime to include people whose only condition is a mental disorder says the debate about that policy is now over. 

“The issue of expansion has already been decided upon,” said Stan Kutcher, who sits with the Independent Senators Group.

As far as Kutcher is concerned, the what was determined two years ago, when his arguments in the Senate convinced the Liberal government to move forward with an expansion of eligibility.

It’s just the when that recently came into question. 

Last week, Parliament hastily passed a Liberal bill that has further delayed the expansion of assisted dying eligibility to people whose sole condition is a mental disorder. 

In an interview, Kutcher said he supported the delay until March 2024 because it will allow proper training and practice standards to be made available to provincial regulatory bodies and practitioners.

Also this …

Preventing attacks where vehicles are used as weapons is difficult, but certain urban design measures might help avert them, an expert says.

Two people died and nine others were injured in the Quebec town of Amqui on Monday after being run down by a pickup truck. Police alleged the driver drove into pedestrians chosen at random, including children. 

Alex Wilner, who teaches international affairs at Carleton University and has expertise on security issues, said certain streetscaping measures can help prevent vehicular access to sidewalks and other areas where pedestrians congregate. 

Those include elevating roadside curbs, setting up bulwarks, making more use of pedestrian bridges and creating divisions between bicycle lanes, jogging lanes and roads, he said. 

Such measures have been implemented in some urban settings, including in parts of Toronto and Ottawa, Wilner said, but divisions between roadways and pedestrian walkways can be almost nonexistent in smaller communities, like Amqui. 

What we are watching in the U.S. …

A federal judge will hear arguments Wednesday in a high-stakes court case that could threaten access to medication abortion and blunt the authority of U.S. drug regulators.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Texas is weighing a lawsuit from Christian conservatives aimed at overturning the Food and Drug Administration’s more than 2-decade-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone. The drug, when used with a second pill, has become the most common method of abortion in the U.S.

There is essentially no precedent for a lone judge overruling the scientific decisions of the FDA. And legal experts have warned of far-reaching consequences if judges begin second-guessing FDA decisions on drug safety and effectiveness.

Wednesday’s hearing is the first in the case, which is being intensely tracked by groups on both sides of the abortion issue after last year’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. However, there was little advance notice of the high-profile session, which only appeared on the public online docket late Monday after news reports raised concerns about a lack of transparency in the proceedings.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

Local elections with national impact opened Wednesday in the Netherlands as voters cast their ballots for the country’s 12 provincial legislatures _ which in turn elect the national parliament’s upper house.

A big swing away from the ruling four-party center-right coalition of long-serving Prime Minister Mark Rutte could affect his ability to push through reforms in the remainder of his term.

The vote comes amid widespread dissatisfaction with Rutte’s government and anger among farmers at plans to rein in nitrate pollution.

Underscoring the discontent, Rutte and other political leaders were briefly unable to leave the venue of the final election debate Tuesday night because of farmers and others protesting outside.

Dozens of parties take part in the provincial elections in this nation of nearly 18 million, many of them small and local. Voters also will elect members of the country’s 21 local water authorities, key institutions in a nation more than a quarter of which is below sea level and which has endless lines of dikes to protect its heartland.

On this day in 1862 …

A Canadian commission recommended the conscription of 50,000 men in case of war with the United States, which was in the midst of a civil war.

In entertainment …

A special prosecutor who doubles as a state legislator is stepping down from her role in the manslaughter case against actor Alec Baldwin in the death of a cinematographer on a New Mexico film set.

Baldwin’s legal team in February sought to disqualify special prosecutor and Republican state Rep. Andrea Reeb of Clovis based on constitutional provisions that safeguard the separation of powers between distinct branches of government.

Reeb said in a statement Tuesday that she “will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand.”

“It has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts,” Reeb said.

District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies filed a notification in state district court and declined further comment.

Baldwin and weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and fines.

Did you see this?

The Transportation Safety Board says pilots in Canada need better guidelines for screening heart-related conditions.

The independent federal agency says at least eight crashes since the early 2000s have been linked to heart attacks or other cardiovascular diseases among pilots.

The recommendation follows the 2021 crash of an amateur-built plane in central Alberta that killed the pilot.

An investigation into the crash in Lacombe, Alta., found evidence the pilot had a heart attack, but it was impossible to determine exactly when.

The safety board is asking Transport Canada to routinely review and improve its guidelines to ensure they include the most effective medical screening methods.

It says such a move would make it less likely for pilots to become incapacitated while flying and reduce the risk of future crashes.

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