The Week In Review
MONDAY NOVEMBER 20 This week of misread epilepsy, spotty suicide prevention, and shocking horror in Iraq begins with shocking horror in Iraq—specifically, the horror that enveloped Walid Hassan, the Iraqi comedian and broadcaster who rose to national prominence on the sketch-comedy show Caricature, to which Hassan reportedly brought a fearless satirical edge. According to the Washington Post, "Hassan's roles ranged from corrupt officials to brown-nosing bureaucrats," with the celebrated satirist finding inspiration in the "war and chaos" of daily life in Iraq. Today, Walid Hassan fell victim to that war and chaos: The 47-year-old father of five and Shiite Muslim was found in the majority-Sunni neighborhood of Yarmouk in west Baghdad, dead from multiple bullet wounds to his back and head. "Was he the victim of sectarian strife?" asked the Post. "Was it a kidnap-for-ransom plot gone awry? Or did his broadcast cross one too many red lines?" So far, no answers, but eyewitness reports last place Hassan in a black car with a driver and two other passengers late this afternoon. And while Hassan's death may shock us, it wouldn't necessarily have shocked him. "Like most Iraqis, he made preparations for death," reports the Post, citing Hassan's sale of his car last year to buy a piece of land for his family. "He was a star in the galaxy of Iraqi arts," said Ali Hanoon, the director of Caricature. "Now, he's another sacrifice on the altar of this slaughtered country."
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 21 Thanks to its long stretches of hopeless gray and irresistibly jump-worthy bridges, Seattle has long enjoyed a reputation as the suicide capital of the United States. This past September, the city moved forward with plans designed to shake off that reputation, authorizing the installation of suicide-hotline emergency phones at all four pedestrian entrances to the freakishly popular plunge point Aurora Bridge, from which an average of four people jump annually. ("City officials were not just concerned solely with the jumpers," reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "but also the people below the bridges who had complained about bodies falling into parking lots and onto cars.") With the site-specific suicide lines scheduled to go live in early December, city officials and suicide-prevention experts are hoping that "a final chance with a dissuading voice will turn jumpers away." But as the P-I discovered, hotlines only work when people answer them. "I called the hotline," said medical social worker Karen Wyome to the P-I. "I was put on hold. Immediately. This happened twice in the past six months." Contacted by the P-I, the supervisor for the hotline-overseeing Crisis Clinic offered nothing but shock. "I can't imagine how that would have happened," said Don Kuch. "Could she have called our business line?" Nope, and with at least one other counselor coming forward with a story of being placed on hold after calling the hotline, it's clear the Crisis Clinic could use some more and better volunteers. If you have the itch to do some good, and a soft spot for folks at the end of their ropes, visit www.crisisclinic.org/volunteer.html.
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 22 Nothing happened today, unless you count news reports on the wealth of bad luck that yesterday befell a plethora of people affiliated with President George W. Bush, including but not limited to First Daughter Barbara Bush (whose purse and cell phone were stolen at a restaurant in Argentina), a Secret Service agent (who was badly beaten during an attempted mugging in Argentina), the acting director of the White House Travel Office (who was robbed and beaten in Waikiki), and two of the three Honolulu Police Department motorcycle officers enlisted to escort Dubya to Hickam Air Force Base (who suffered serious injuries after slipping on slick pavement).
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 23 The week continues with Thanksgiving, the secular U.S. holiday devoted to blessing counting and overeating. One blessing counted by Last Days: We don't have epilepsy, thus we've never been arrested after one of our epileptic seizures was misidentified by police as disorderly conduct. Unfortunately, the same blessing can't be claimed by 48-year-old Daniel Beloungea, whose sad, strange saga was shared with the world today by ABC News. While walking through his suburban Detroit neighborhood last April, Beloungea was overcome by an epileptic seizure marked by rapid repetitive arm motion. Beloungea's twitchy fit was witnessed by a neighbor, who believed she was watching public masturbation and called the cops. Police arrived to find Beloungea "acting disoriented and not responding to questions," inspiring officers to shock Beloungea with a high-voltage Taser and wrestle him to the ground, after which he was handcuffed and taken to jail. Throughout the ordeal, Beloungea was wearing a medical alert bracelet identifying him as an epileptic and listing contact numbers for people to be called in case of an emergency; experts characterized his "wild motions and inability to communicate"—perceived by police as "assaulting an officer" and "resisting arrest"—as classic symptoms of epilepsy. "In a situation like mine, look for a medical bracelet," said Beloungea to ABC. "Don't just grab a Taser gun... 50,000 volts in a situation like mine could kill a person."
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 24 Speaking of potentially deadly situations brought on by ridiculous misunderstandings: Today brings a most violent addition to Last Days' pantheon of public-grooming dramas, courtesy of the Associated Press. The shit went down yesterday at Fort Worth, TX's Tumbleweeds Sports Bar, where 27-year-old Eric Jennings Kisiah became irritated at a fellow patron's alleged failure to wash his hands after using the restroom. According to witnesses, Kisiah confronted the dirty-handed scofflaw and two of his friends, calling them "dirty" and threatening to "slash their throats." According to police, Kisiah then hid in a shrub outside the bar and ambushed the group as they left, stabbing one of them four times. The stab victim survived, and Kisiah was arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 25 Nothing happened today, unless you count the ongoing horror in Iraq, including the combination of bombs and mortars that killed 215 people in Baghdad's main Shiite district on Thursday, the sectarian violence that claimed the lives of 87 people across Iraq on Friday, or the gunmen who broke into two Shiite homes and killed 21 men in front of their relatives in an Iraqi village today.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 26 The week ends with the splashiest stop yet on Michael Richards's "The Funny Thing Is I'm Not a Racist" damage-control tour. Today the man who would be KKKramer appeared on Jesse Jackson's nationally syndicated radio program, where he continued to beg for forgiveness while blaming his outburst on rage, not racism. To his credit, Richards is undergoing psychiatric counseling for his anger-management and racist-screaming problems. Nevertheless, Last Days still predicts that Kramer will never be funny again.
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