Death in a Can: Australia’s Euthanasia Loophole
An 89-Year-Old Drug Mule Is Threatening to Kill Himself Rather Than Face Jail Time
Leo Sharp is an 89-year-old drug mule. He pleaded guilty last fall to trucking 200 pounds of cocaine across the country for the Sinaloa Cartel. Now, he’s awaiting sentencing next week on May 7, his 90th birthday. He told a news crew in no uncertain terms that if given jail time, “I’m just gonna end it all. Period.” If that’s too ambiguous for you, he clarified: “I’m gonna get a goddamned gun and shoot myself in the mouth or the ear, one or the other.” So if he means it, that’s happening this coming Wednesday.
VICE News Daily: March 5, 2014
The VICE News Capsule is a daily roundup that looks beyond the headlines. Today: Russia wants Moldova, suicide in the US Military, medical marijuana ads, and Afghan ISAF base workers.
Most people were first exposed to Michael C. Ruppert through the 2009 documentary, Collapse, directed by Chris Smith. Collapse was one of the scariest documentaries about our world and the fragile the state of our planet. It was also one of VICE’s favorite films from the past ten years.
Michael was forced to leave the LAPD after claiming that the CIA was complicit in selling drugs across America, and he quickly became one of the most original and strident voices to talk about climate change, government corruption, and peak oil through his website, “From the Wilderness.”
Following the release of Collapse, Michael’s personal life underwent something of a collapse itself and he paid off all his debts, left behind all his friends, and moved with his dog Rags to Colorado, planning to commit suicide.
VICE caught up with Michael in the middle of the epic beauty of the Rocky Mountains at the end of last year. We found a man undergoing a spiritual rebirth—still passionate about the world and with a whole new set of apocalyptic issues to talk about.
Apocalypse, Man is an intimate portrait of a man convinced of the imminent collapse of the world, but with answers to how the human spirit can survive the impending apocalypse.
Apocalypse, Man is a feature-length documentary to be released over the next few weeks.
Soundtrack by Sunn O))), Flaming Lips, Interpol, Michael C. Ruppert, and more.
Dimitar Dimitrov at his wife’s cabin in the rural village of Silistra, four months after his self-immolation.
Wave of Immolation – Bulgarians Are Setting Themselves on Fire in Record Numbers
It’s not every day that you meet someone who has set himself on fire. One reason for this is because it’s pretty much the most awful and insane thing imaginable. Another reason is that people who light themselves ablaze usually die soon afterward. Surprisingly, it’s not always the burns that kill them. Often, flames will enter a self-immolator’s lungs through his mouth, causing him to asphyxiate.
On a recent trip to Bulgaria, I met not one but two people who had survived suicide attempts by fire. “Solving problems with gasoline has become the new trend,” Georgi Kostov told me in the burn-victim unit of St. George hospital in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city. He was still in shock, so his wife, Donka, did most of the talking.
She explained how the couple were unemployed, in debt, and struggling to feed their children, when, two weeks before my visit, Georgi disappeared into his bedroom at their apartment in the industrial city of Dimitrovgrad. He came out doused in gasoline, convinced that the Mafia was outside his front door to collect on his debts and kill him. Standing in front of his family, he flicked on his lighter and burst into flames. Donka leapt onto him to put out the blaze while his sister threw water on him. They succeeded in saving Georgi, but his wife suffered third-degree burns all over her arms in the process. “He was so depressed,” she said. “He didn’t know how to make anyone notice our poverty. So he did this horrible thing.”
Fake Funerals in South Korea
Despite its booming economy, the people of South Korea have never been more unhappy. With an average of 43 suicides per day, it’s the suicide capital of the developed world and Asia’s unhappiest nation.
Unsurprisingly, this apparent paradox has provoked much soul-searching within South Korea. A result of this is the “Well Dying”—or “Near Death”—movement, which aims to give people a little taste of death to replenish their appetite for life.
Perhaps the most bizarre manifestation of this movement is the rise of “fake funeral” services, where participants are lectured by a philosophical guru and told to write their own eulogies, before spending 30 minutes meditating inside a coffin.
VICE Japan correspondent Yuka Uchida headed to Seoul to try to experience her own “death” at a fake funeral ceremony.
David Bowie Stole My Suicide Record, So I Ripped the Hubcaps Off His Limo – Please Kill Me
Above: Legs and Joey Ramone around the time this story takes place. Photo by Tom Hearn
[Editor’s Note: Hi, millennials! We’d like to interrupt whatever Vine you’re working on and introduce you to our friend Legs. Maybe you’ve heard of him—he’s responsible for a little book called Please Kill Me, which is the best book on punk rock ever written. Noisey was filming with him a few weeks ago, and we convinced him to do a little writing for us. Enjoy!]
In my ongoing attempt to rebuild my vinyl collection, I was recently perusing a Brooklyn hipster record store and came across the new David Bowie album, The Next Day. I’ve been enjoying quite a few lesser-known Bowie cuts lately, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and really get wild. I bought the record.
This is a real feat for me, as I’ve never bought a record on faith alone. I’d been hearing good things about the record, and I was curious to hear what an artist like Bowie had to say at the end of his career or—if the rumors are true about his having cancer—at the end of his life.
While I was paying for the record, I was reminded of Mick Jagger’s famous quote about Bowie: “Never wear a new pair of shoes in front of him.” Jagger’s implication was either that Bowie was a notorious thief (of ideas, trends, or the latest fashions), or that he’d run right out and get it in order to claim ultra-hipper-than-thou-trendsetting status.” Yeah, be the first one on the block with a new, red-rooster, unisex cut and ten-inch, sparkling, platform shoes!
Inside Anonymous’ Operation to Out Rehtaeh Parsons’ Alleged Rapists
The late Rehtaeh Parsons. via Facebook.
In the days following the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons—the teenage girl from Halifax who committed suicide after being gang raped, photographed, and harassed—the hacktivist group Anonymous is playing a game of chicken with the authorities in Nova Scotia. Anonymous says they have the names of four suspects, and are threatening to release that information if justice is not delivered. Those names have in fact been circulating in small online circles, but the information has been withheld from publication on Anonymous’s largest social media channels. All of this has caused a storm of negative feedback from those who view Anonymous’s actions as destructive “vigilantism” while Anonymous maintains they are only involved because “several crimes have been committed in Nova Scotia. A 17-year-old girl killed herself because the police failed to do their jobs.”
I spoke with a member of Anonymous who is directly involved with the operation to bring Rehtaeh’s rapists to justice, in order to get a better handle on their motivations.
VICE: How do you go about sourcing the information that has led to naming the four suspects?
Anonymous: The information we have gathered comes from a combination of internet research and informants. It’s a lot more like being a journalist than it is being a detective. We use advanced search techniques to comb the internet for statements, photos, videos, whatever we need. We can locate statements by suspects made years ago on accounts they may not even know still exist. We’ve also developed a level of trust with our online community and they feel comfortable speaking with us because they know we’ll protect their identities. We validate their information in the same way the police might, by cross referencing stories and doing background checks on the individuals who are providing the information. There’s also a psychological factor. It’s important to recognize the motives behind the person who is providing you the information. Some people just want to be involved so they’ll embellish their accounts or perhaps they want revenge. You can’t always count on a person’s memory either so it’s important to test them to discover if the story they are telling you has been compromised by time or their emotional state.
In this case, did your sources approach you?
Most of the sources approached us, but we tracked down quite a few of them by examining the online interactions of the victim and the suspects.
What have you learned about this case so far that you want people to know?
Only half of this case is about those four teenage boys and the alleged rape. The real guilty parties here are the adults that violated Rehtaeh. I would like to see those boys punished for what they did because I think it sets a terrible example for the other young men in Nova Scotia, but almost even more I would like to see the police and the school system pay for what they did to that girl. They had a responsibility to be there for her, to protect her, and to relieve her torment. They failed at every turn to help her. Now they’re all too busy blaming one another. The school claims they didn’t know. The police say they couldn’t find any evidence. They’re both guilty of incompetence.
Your Clothes Are Making Indian Cotton Farmers Commit Suicide
In the same month that 125 Bangladeshi fabric workers died in a factory fire, a film aiming to expose the tragedy of unrestricted globalized fashion called Dirty White Gold reached its Sponsume target of £18,000(about $27,000). The film begins by examining the hundreds of thousands of Indian cotton farmers who, saddled with economic hopelessness, have taken their own lives. It’s a jolly little piece.
A Center for Human Rights and Global Justice report describes the root of the problem: At the turn of the millennium, Indian farmers who had been given access to a wider range of products after India’s market liberalization started buying genetically modified Bollgard Bt cotton seeds from the Gates Foundation-backedMonsanto corporation. The seeds were able to resist and kill the common American Bollworm cotton pest, making them an instant hit, with 85 percent of cotton grown in India being Monsanto-controlled Bt cotton by 2009.
However, the seeds were expensive, and spiralling prices (coupled with planting restrictions from the multinationals selling the seeds) led to farmers approaching money lenders for hefty loans that eventually turned into unmanageable debt. Almost 300,000 cotton workers have committed suicide to date, some of them by drinking the same insecticides they were sold by multinationals. And those suicides also bring up wider questions about the ethics of the fashion industry as a whole, in that this cotton is used in the clothes that end up absolutely everywhere.
India’s embrace of the free market opened the floodgates for international money and, perhaps predictably, the corporatization of agriculture vanquished the need for the small-to-medium scale farmers who used to own and control the productive process. For roughly 100 rupees per day (about $1.80), these people are now contracted to spread toxic insecticides and fertilizers, often with little or no protective clothing. I called up the director ofDirty White Gold, London-based journalist Leah Borromeo, to see if the situation could possibly get any more depressing.
Leah Borromeo interviewing Hanuman, an indebted cotton farmer
VICE: Hi, Leah. How far along into the film are you at the moment?
Leah Borromeo: Some days I feel like I’m a quarter of the way done, and other days I feel like I’m only an eighth of the way done. It’s going to be out in 2014, toward the end of summer. I’ve got a deadline, so I’m trying to get everything done by then, but I can’t rush nature—quite literally, in this case.
What made you want to work on this topic in particular?
I was doing it as a straightforward magazine article, but I ended up bringing a camera with me and found so many stories within that surface story. Then I found there was a real, genuine chance to express globalization, capitalism, consumerism, and all the wider political and social arguments through the medium of this story.
Yeah, you could look at it as a single issue, but obviously the problem is vast, and arguably a consequence of global capitalism.
It embodies absolutely everything. Fashion is the one piece of art that people tend to consume either consciously or unconsciously. The two best foils for relating to consumerism are through food or fashion. Food is quite a niche thing, because not everybody eats meat, but everybody—for the most part—seems to wear clothes.