MONDAY, JULY 14 This week of one tragic warlike gesture after another leading to a cumulative sense of the end of the world kicks off, fittingly enough, with fire, which inserted itself into the week's proceedings like a plague. Case in point: today's story out of Utah, where the past weekend brought the Element 11 festival—which describes itself as a "sanctioned regional Burning Man festival event dedicated to the Ten Principles and ethos of Burning Man"—where attendees were enjoying principles and ethos until an actual man started burning. As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, the scene went down Saturday night in the desert near Grantsville, where "a three-story wooden effigy, inspired by the creatures from Where the Wild Things Are, [was] burned to mark the culmination of the Element 11 festival." The ceremonial bonfire had been burning for around 30 minutes when the scene turned dark, when "hundreds of festival-goers watched in horror as Christopher Wallace of Salt Lake City broke through a safety barrier, danced wildly for a few moments, and ran full speed into the flames," reports the Tribune. "Wallace, who was in his late 20s or early 30s, had told other festival-goers earlier in the day that he planned to kill himself by jumping into the burning effigy, said Grantsville police Lt. Steve Barrett. 'This is what he was going to do, and it's what he did,' Barrett said." After reviewing witnesses' video footage of Wallace's plunge into fire, police officially determined Wallace's death was a suicide. Condolences to all.
TUESDAY, JULY 15 Speaking of high-impact fire geniuses, the week continues in West Seattle, where today a man reportedly noticed a spider in the laundry room of the house he rents and did what every sane renter would do—try to kill the spider with a can of spray paint and a lighter. Firefighters told KIRO that the man's makeshift blowtorch soon spread fire throughout the room and into the attic. "I saw flames coming out of the side of the house," neighbor Sue Green told KIRO, which reports that Green and other neighbors hosed down their houses and yards with water to help contain the blaze. "The man who started the fire lives in the house with his mother," reports KIRO. "When the fire got out of control, he called 911... The fire caused $40,000 of damage to the structure, and $20,000 worth of its contents."
•• In much worse fire news, today saw the continued burning of several separate wildfires in North-Central Washington. The day after tomorrow, four of these fires—all caused by the combination of lightning and excessively dry conditions—will merge and progress southeastward, necessitating widespread evacuations and burning roughly 100 homes. One week from today, that fire and the others will still be burning, with the Carlton Complex earning the horrible title of the biggest wildfire in Washington State history. Stay tuned.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16 In better news, the week continues in California, where today a Santa Ana–based federal judge ruled the state's death penalty to be unconstitutional. As CNN reports, today's ruling stems from the 1995 death sentence given to Ernest D. Jones, a convicted rapist and murderer who's spent almost 20 years on death row, during which time he's petitioned the court about the validity of his death sentence. Today, Judge Cormac J. Carney vacated Jones's death sentence while ruling California's delay-ridden practice of capital punishment to be unconstitutional. "In California, the execution of a death sentence is so infrequent, and the delays preceding it so extraordinary, that the death penalty is deprived of any deterrent or retributive effect it might once have had," wrote Judge Carney, noting that roughly 40 percent of death-row inmates have been there longer than 19 years. "Such an outcome is antithetical to any civilized notion of just punishment." So, yeah, today's ruling stems not from the gross immorality of state-run executions, but from the state's sluggishness in actually killing those sentenced to death. But we'll take whatever death-penalty hindrances we can get.
THURSDAY, JULY 17 In worse news, the week continues in the sky over eastern Ukraine, where this afternoon a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down from the sky, killing all 298 passengers and crew members. The rest of the week and beyond will explode with accusations, denials, and morbid grotesqueries, so let us take today to recognize the victims, at least six of whom were AIDS researchers and public-health advocates traveling to an international AIDS conference in Australia. Among them: Joep Lange, one of the world's most distinguished AIDS researchers, who helped establish the combination drug therapy that's saved millions of lives and who more recently devoted himself to improving access to HIV-fighting drugs around the world. "In this world today, we shouldn't forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these," President Obama will say in a press conference tomorrow. "People who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed, people who are focused on how they can help people that they've never met, people who define themselves not by what makes them different from other people but by the humanity that we hold in common." RIP, Flight 17 victims (not all of whom were AIDS-fighting heroes, and some of whom were infants).
FRIDAY, JULY 18 Meanwhile in Florida, a Daytona Beach man was thrown into terrible drama early this morning when he allegedly found his 11-year-old son being sexually abused by an 18-year-old man—and promptly beat the man unconscious. As the Associated Press reports, the dad followed the beating with a call to 911. "He is nice and knocked out on the floor for you," said the father to the 911 dispatcher, who asked if the fight involved any weapons. "My foot and my fist," said the dad. "When officers arrived, they found [the 18-year-old] motionless on the living room floor," reports the AP. "He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth. [The man] is charged with sexual battery on a child under 12. He is being held without bail." The beatdown-administering father, however, has not been charged with anything. "Dad was acting like a dad," said Daytona Beach police chief Mike Chitwood to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "I don't see anything we should charge the dad with."
SATURDAY, JULY 19 As Last Days mentioned on Tuesday, Washington State is currently living through the worst wildfire in its history, and today that fire claimed its first human victim: Robert E. Koczewski, a 67-year-old man in Okanogan County who, along with his wife, had spent the past three days fighting the fire threatening their home. "They did everything they could to save their home, and they did," said Okanogan County sheriff Frank T. Rogers to the Los Angeles Times. "But on Saturday, he had a heart attack." RIP, Robert E. Koczewski, and fuck you, God.
SUNDAY, JULY 20 Nothing happened today (except more burning).
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