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This undated photograpoh courtesy of the California Department of Corrections shows the San Quentin Prison execution chamber (-)
This undated photograpoh courtesy of the California Department of Corrections shows the San Quentin Prison execution chamber (-)

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Lawyers for 2 on death row try to block U.K. drug export Add to ...

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Lethal injection drug at heart of court fight A drug used in lethal injection executions in the United States has become the focus of a British court fight over export controls.

The drug, sodium thiopental, is one of three used in such executions, a painkiller that first renders death-row inmates unconscious. There's a shortage of this drug in the United States, and some executions have been delayed, but it is still available in Britain.

However, opponents of the death penalty argue that the export of the drug violates human rights, particularly given the British government's commitment to abolishing executions.

In November, a human rights group in London sued the government, arguing that a death row inmate in Tennessee, Edmund Zagorski, will be executed if the drug is exported. The court fight in London today involves both Zagorski and Ralph Base, both of whom are on death row.

Earlier this month, Britain's Business Secretary Vince Cable refused to ban the export of the drug under the Export Control Act, saying it was medicine whose primary use was as an anaesthetic and that "legitimate trade of medical value would be affected by any restriction on the export of this product from the U.K."

Today at London's High Court, according to The Press Association and other reports, lawyer Nathalie Lieven argued that Mr. Cable's refused to ban the export was irrational.

"There are strong grounds for fearing that the U.K. will be, or already has been, the source of drugs used in the claimants' proposed executions, and for many other persons on death row in the U.S.," Ms. Lieven said, according to Bloomberg News.

"Such executions would be a clear violation of fundamental human rights principles to which the U.K. has consistently, and very recently, affirmed its commitment.

Zagorski, convicted of two murders, has been on death row since 1984, while Baze, convicted of killing two police officers, is on death row Kentucky, where he has been for 17 years.

"Having failed to persuade Vince Cable that it is wrong for the U.K. to be facilitating the death penalty in the U.S., we hope that the High Court will now compel him to exercise the powers of export control which parliament has granted him to prevent just this sort of violation of human rights," Richard Stein, of the law firm Leigh Day & Co., told The Independent.

"There is a list which covers guillotines, gas chambers and electrocution equipment."

GM boosts IPO again General Motors Co. is on track for one of the biggest initial public offerings ever, possibly the largest in the U.S. depending on how it plays out.

GM, the subject of a bailout and a stint in bankruptcy protection, said today it was boosting the size of the offering of common shares to 478 million from 365 million, not including overallotments. The estimated price range is $32 (U.S.) to $33 (U.S.), driven by very hot investor demand.

The IPO could bring in $18-billion from the common stock and $4.6-billion from the preferred share offering if the overallotment provision is exercised.

GM will price the IPO today and its shares will begin trading again tomorrow in New York and Toronto.

Both the U.S. and Canada are involved, both holding stakes in the auto maker after the historic bailout during the crisis. In the U.S., the government will sell 412 million of its 912 million shares, according to reports.

GM has rebounded smartly from the crisis, last week posting a profit of $2-billion for the third quarter. So far this year, GM's profits have topped $4-billion - that follows five years in a row of losses.

U.S. probes bank failures The U.S. agency that insures bank deposits is probing former executives, employees and directors that collapsed in the crisis, The Wall Street Journal reports today.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the U.S. equivalent of Canada Deposit Insurance Corp., has launched about 50 criminal investigations, the newspaper said.

The FDIC wants to punish alleged recklessness and fraud, as authorities did after the infamous savings and loan scandal in the 1980s and 1990s. More than 300 institutions have collapsed since the financial crisis began.

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