OREGON 2, ASCROFT 0 Last week Oregon continued to kick John Ashcroft's butt. In 2001, just a few weeks after two hijacked planes plowed into the World Trade Center, and when Attorney General Ashcroft was supposed to be leading a fight against terrorism, he turned his attention instead to Oregon. Using the Controlled Substance Act, Ashcroft tried to penalize any physician who prescribed overdoses in accordance with the state's Death With Dignity Act. In effect, Ashcroft was trying to kill the country's only assisted suicide law (which Oregon voters had already twice approved).

A federal court immediately rebuffed Ashcroft's attempt to tinker with state law. Since then, that decision has been in limbo, as Ashcroft has appealed the injunction.

Last Monday, this ruling was re-enforced as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 2-1 to shut down Ashcroft. Calling his actions "unlawful and unenforceable," the judges said that his action "far exceeded his authority." PB

CHEAPER NOT TO BEAT HER What does it take for a cop to get into trouble in this town? Four years ago, Damon Lowrey died after being beaten by police. At the time, Lowrey was apparently freaking out on mushrooms, and leapt from a window. Though Lowrey was bleeding profusely and unarmed, the police shot him 10 times with beanbags, doused him with no fewer than six cans of pepper-spray, hog-tied him and then beat him with their batons.

Understandably, Lowrey's family filed a federal lawsuit against the police bureau. In October, the city attorney successfully argued that the force was necessary considering Lowrey's "drug-induced psychosis" and inability to feel pain.

But three weeks ago, a federal judge overturned that decision and ordered a re-trial. On May 7, U.S. District Judge Janice Stewart ordered a new trial to examine whether the force police used was necessary and legal.

But last Wednesday, city council voted to challenge that ruling, again derailing the case. Defending the unanimous 4-0 vote, a city hall staffer explained, "It's a matter of protecting the city's interest. If you spoke with the [council members] privately, some would probably express disgust. But they have to protect the city from paying out a large chunk of change." PB