MONDAY, JULY 23 This week of staggering philanthropy, fantasy cannibalism, and an international bumblethon for the ages kicks off in Indianapolis, where today the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced its sanctions against Penn State, where university officials stand accused of ignoring reports of the sexual abuse of children on campus by a staff member. "Penn State officials were accused of not taking action after being alerted that [Jerry] Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, was sexually abusing children," reports Reuters. "NCAA president Mark Emmert said the school had put 'hero worship and winning at all costs' ahead of integrity, honesty, and responsibility." For these failures, Penn State today received a $60 million fine (all of which will be put toward programs to combat child abuse) and retroactively lost every football game of the past 14 years, as the NCAA voided all Penn State football victories since 1998.
TUESDAY, JULY 24 The week continues with a glorious story from the intersection of "never hurts to ask" and "ask and ye shall receive," set right here in the Pacific Northwest. At the center of the saga: Jennifer Cast, described by the New York Times as "one of Amazon's earliest employees and a lesbian mother of four children who is now a fund-raising chairwoman of [Washington United for Marriage]"—the group working to see marriage equality upheld in this November's election. But our story begins last Sunday, when Ms. Cast took time out of her busy lesbian-mother-of-four schedule to e-mail Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and former boss/colleague of Ms. Cast. As the NYT reports, "In her e-mail... Ms. Cast, 50, implored Mr. Bezos to understand the importance of the issue to her and her longtime partner. 'I want to have the right to marry the love of my life and to let my children and grandchildren know their family is honored like a "real" family,' Ms. Cast wrote. 'We need help from straight people. To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win... Jeff, I suspect you support marriage equality. I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so.'" Closing her e-mail with a request for Bezos to consider a donation of $100,000–$200,000, Ms. Cast hit send—and the wait began. It was a short one, with Cast getting a reply from Jeff Bezos today: "Jen," the e-mail said, "this is right for so many reasons. We're in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie." With their humongous gift, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos doubled the funds available to the pro-equality fight and became two of the largest financial backers of gay-marriage rights in the United States. Thank you thank you thank you, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. (And thank you, too, Jennifer Cast.)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 25 In worse news, the week continues with the saga of Ronald William Brown, a 57-year-old professional puppeteer with ties to numerous children's organizations in and around Largo, Florida. "He often served pizza to kids in the neighborhood, then drove them to services at Gulf Coast Church, where he was an active congregant," reports the Tampa Bay Times. "But there was another side to Brown, according to a 29-page criminal complaint filed July 20 in federal court in Tampa: The man who, as he was feeding pizza to teenagers, nursed fantasies of murdering and eating them. The one who acted out Bible stories with puppets at his church, while musing online about carving and cooking the body parts of a young parishioner for Easter." Last Friday, Ronald Brown was arrested on charges of conspiring to kidnap a child and possession of child pornography, after a search of his home by Homeland Security agents reportedly turned up lewd images of children and "images of children that appear to be deceased." Yesterday, Ronald Brown appeared in US District Court in Tampa and was ordered held without bail. Today, we marvel at these sentences from the Tampa Bay Times: "Largo recreation program manager Warren Ankerberg knew Brown in his capacity as the leader of Smuppets, a city-sponsored senior citizen puppet troupe. (The name is a combination of 'seniors' and 'muppets.')"
THURSDAY, JULY 26 In much lighter news, today GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney visited the United Kingdom, where he spent the day eating his feet, pooping in punch bowls, and failing in all manner of ways to behave as someone that anyone should take seriously. Among Romney's greatest gaffes: publicly questioning London's level of Olympic preparedness (inspiring high-profile put-downs from London's mayor and the British prime minister) and casually revealing a supposed-to-be-top-secret meeting with Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. For his Mormon Mr. Bean routine, Romney will be rewarded with UK newspaper headlines blasting "MITT THE TWIT" and denunciations from such folks as American Olympic legend Carl Lewis, who addressed the Romney mess in an interview with the Independent: "Some Americans shouldn't leave the country."
FRIDAY, JULY 27 Nothing happened today, unless you count the end of a week of high-octane Jackson family madness, during which various members of the Jackson clan—from Michael's suddenly fascinating offspring Paris and Prince, to normal-till-now Janet, to eternal benchwarmer Rebbie—reportedly accused each other of various kidnapping and/or forgery conspiracies, only stopping long enough to tweet about it to the whole world. Whatever the hell's going on, today a Los Angeles judge ordered an investigation into the care of Michael Jackson's children. "Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff, acting on his own initiative, instructed a probate court investigator to prepare a report 'addressing the status of the minor children' and their grandmother, Katherine Jackson," reports the Los Angeles Times. "In his one-page order, Beckloff ordered investigator Cary Ornelas 'to interview the children at their school on an unannounced basis' and deliver a written report directly to him." Stay tuned.
SATURDAY, JULY 28 "Dear Mr. Schmader," writes Hot Tipper Stephen. "I have been reading Last Days faithfully for as long as you have been writing it, and it rarely, if ever, disappoints. But I feel compelled to write in response to your use of the term 'sky-rats' to describe crows. Crows are amazingly beautiful creatures that are much beloved by many denizens of this city, myself included. They figure prominently in Native American culture and lore and are, to me, like a mascot or symbol of the Pacific Northwest itself. Yes, they are scavengers, but let us not forget that we have cleared the forests and meadows of this once beautiful land with concrete and asphalt, leaving them to rummage through our garbage for sustenance. In the future, I hope that you will refrain from attaching a stigma to these wonderful birds. Thank you." Dear Hot Tipper Stephen: Your wish is our command. Meanwhile, Last Days' description of Michele Bachmann as a "sky-rat that eats garbage" remains uncontested.
SUNDAY, JULY 29 Nothing happened today, unless you count the Fox News interview with Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, during which "one of the Supreme Court's most vocal and conservative justices" allowed for the constitutionality of gun control. As the National Journal reports, Scalia acknowledged "that the Second Amendment leaves room for US legislatures to regulate guns, including menacing hand-held weapons." More, please.
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