MONDAY, DECEMBER 6 After what felt like an eternity of weeks marked by nothing but war casualties and infanticide, Last Days is thrilled to kick off the week with some legitimately good news, courtesy of the December issue of Nature Medicine. "It worked in mice. It worked in monkeys. And now in humans, a therapeutic vaccine has stopped HIV in its tracks." Developed by researchers in France and Brazil, the alleged vaccine contains a patient's own strain of HIV amped with a patient's own dendritic cells, those bloodborne do-gooders that seize foreign bodies in the blood and present them to other immune cells, triggering powerful immune system responses that destroy the foreign invaders. Typically, these crucial responses are rendered inactive by HIV, but for 18 Brazilian test subjects--each of whom was HIV-positive, unmedicated, and losing T cells--three injections of the new, dendritic-infused vaccine caused viral loads to drop by 80 percent while halting the decline in T cells altogether. Even better, 8 of the 18 patients maintained a 90 percent drop in HIV levels one year later. "The results suggest... a promising strategy for treating people with chronic HIV infection," writes the University of Paris' Jean-Marie Andrieu. "The significant decrease of viral load as well as maintenance of... T-cell counts observed at one year after immunization are particularly promising."
--In far worse news, today brought conclusive proof that beautiful people have troubles, too, as the New York Post reported on the violent racist threats received by Tony-winning Caucasian actress Idina Menzel and drool-inducing African-American actor Taye Diggs. Married since January 2003, Diggs and Menzel shared harmonious lives of professional success and physical beauty until the week before last, when the duo received at least three letters threatening bodily harm in retaliation for their flagrant miscegenation. Specifically, the letter-writer threatened to "burn" and "castrate" Diggs for "selling out" and marrying a white woman, also threatening to torch the Gershwin Theater, where Menzel is starring in the musical Wicked. New York police are investigating.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7 Today brought more unnecessary evidence of man's inhumanity to man/God's sporadic betrayal of everyone, as a little old lady in South Seattle was struck by not one but two hit-and-run drivers, both of whom fled the scene, leaving their fatally injured victim alone to die on South 129th Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Way. KING 5 provides details on victim Heja Hahn, a retiree who would've turned 66 on Christmas Eve and is the mother of popular KING 5 news reporter Elisa Hahn. Deep condolences to the Hahn family and best of luck to King County investigators who are reportedly searching for three vehicles: the two that struck Mrs. Hahn, and a third whose driver swerved to avoid hitting Mrs. Hahn but failed to stop and render aid.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8 The day begins with a flash of illuminating conflict, as Donald Rumsfeld appeared at a military transit camp in Iraq, where the Secretary of Defense received a surprise grilling at the hands of a U.S. soldier. Addressing the crucial shortage of armored vehicles for U.S. troops in Iraq, Spc. Thomas Wilson asked why the U.S. Army requires soldiers to "dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal" to bolster armor on their vehicles. By way of a response, Rumsfeld offered a stumbling, esoteric tone poem about "physics" and "desire" that illuminated nothing but the Defense Secretary's potential narcotic abuse. Twenty-four hours of rumination did little to improve Rumsfeld's eloquence: Addressing questions about the question the next day in India, Rumsfeld swapped esoteric poetry for Lewis Carroll-esque whimsy: "I don't know what the facts are, but somebody certainly is going to sit down with [Wilson] and find out what he knows and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know."
--Meanwhile in Columbus, Ohio: A psychotic fan of the defunct metal band Pantera stormed the stage at a show by the post-Pantera band Damageplan, where the 25-year-old gunman shot former Pantera frontman/current Damageplan frontman Darrell Abbott five times in the head at point-blank range, killing an additional four people before being fatally shot by Columbus police. In the words of God: holy fuck.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9 Today brings two high-octane tales of police officers gone awry. Story number one comes from Orlando, Florida, where complaints about a hideous stench emanating from a parking garage elevator led to the installation of a surveillance camera, which soon caught the culprit: police officer Carl Brown, a 40-year-old Orange County sheriff's deputy, caught on video urinating in the elevator. The Associated Press reports that Officer Brown confessed to urinating in the elevator an estimated five times, citing a medical "urgency to urinate" for his inability to "wait 15 to 20 seconds to exit the elevator." Orlando investigators weren't buying it either, terminating Brown for conduct unbecoming of an officer.
--Meanwhile in D.C.: The Supreme Court ruled against a former San Diego police officer terminated after supervisors learned of the video tapes, showing the seven-year police veteran stripping off his police uniform and masturbating to completion, being auctioned on eBay. Identified in court papers as "John Roe," the police officer contended that his firing violated his rights to free speech; without even hearing arguments, the Supremes ruled against Officer Wanksalot, declaring his actions to be "detrimental to the mission and functions of the employer" and upholding the government's right to "impose certain restraints on the speech of its employees ... that would be unconstitutional if applied to the general public."
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10 Today brought egg to the face of the Mayor of Wenatchee, who publicly begged forgiveness of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, after several of the group's nonwhite members complained of being subjected to flagrant racism during a visit to Wenatchee in September. Specifically, coalition members cited stupidly slow service and did-I really-hear-that? racial asides for nonwhite restaurant patrons, allegedly culminating with one black woman being asked to leave a business because of her race. "I am stunned and appalled to learn of the very unfortunate and intolerable encounters some of your members experienced in our city," wrote Mayor Dennis Johnson in a November 30 letter to the coalition, obtained by the Wenatchee World. "I sincerely and deeply apologize."
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11 Nothing happened today, unless you count the UK Sun reports of the hideous stink-wads dangling at the ends of Britney Spears' legs. According to passengers onboard a Los Angeles-to-New York flight with Spears and hubby du jour Kevin Federline, the removal of Spears' shoes unleashed a smell described by one victim as "unbelievable." To all who've beheld photos of Spears' barefoot traipses into public restrooms, news of her hideous foot funk can come as no surprise. Still, furious props to the intrepid attendant who "tapped Britney on the shoulder and asked her very politely to put her shoes back on."
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12 As the week began, so does it end: With a much-appreciated burst of good news, courtesy of the Associated Press, which provides details on the cosmically just saga of Debi Faris-Cifelli, the California woman whose eight-years-and-counting spent combating the fatal abandonment of newborns (since 1996, the amazing Mrs. Faris-Cifelli has buried 70 abandoned babies at her very own Garden of Angels cemetery) was rewarded last week when she won the $27 million California lottery. Dear God: All is forgiven. For now.
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