MONDAY, DECEMBER 13 The week begins with a disturbingly concrete answer to an eternally upsetting question: What's killing the homeless? Statistics come from the King County Health Department, which studied the deaths of 77 homeless people in Seattle--83 percent of whom were men, with most between 30 and 59 years of age, and a damningly high percentage of them Native American. As for specifics: The most frequent cause of death was acute alcohol/drug intoxication (26 percent), followed by cardiovascular disease (17 percent), homicide (9 percent), and pedestrian/traffic accidents (6 percent). "We are deeply disturbed--if not particularly surprised--by the findings," writes Health Care for the Homeless Network Planning Council Chairwoman Linda Weedman, who outlines a number of methods for improvement. Top of the list: Ensuring homeless folks access to both health-care services and housing. As Weedman puts it, "Housing is health care."
--Speaking of death reports: Today a California jury decided that Scott Peterson--the convicted killer at the center of the murder case that (fun fact!) has graced more People magazine covers than any murder investigation in the publication's history--should be executed for murdering his pregnant wife.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14 In far better news: Following last week's researchers-in-France story, today brought news of another potentially history-altering new HIV medication, this one out of Rutgers University. According to a report published by the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Rutgers researchers have developed a trio of drugs they believe can destroy HIV. Called DAPYs, the drugs reportedly mimic HIV by changing shape, which enables them to interfere with the way HIV attacks the immune system. Even better, early tests show the most promising of the three drugs is easily absorbed with minimal side effects. As Rutgers chemist Eddy Arnold told the Associated Press, "We're onto something very, very special."
--Speaking of medical astonishments: Today also brought news of Grace Radtke, the 300-pound woman in Cincinnati whose sudden, mysterious weight loss (she wasn't dieting or exercising) prompted her family to urge the 40-year-old mother of three to get medical attention. Historically wary of medicine, Ms. Radtke avoided the doctor until last week, when she underwent surgery to remove the 66-pound ovarian cyst growing in her abdomen. The obligatory fruit comparison comes from the Associated Press, which characterized Ms. Radtke's tumor (which doctors say had been growing for at least a year) as "the size of three watermelons," heavy enough to require four people to lift it onto a stretcher. Even better, the tumor has a moral, with medical experts claiming the decysted Radtke as "living proof that the human body is still a mystery, and it's never too late to start trusting doctors."
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15 One day after the release of approximately 10,000 U.S. Navy documents accusing a slew of Marines of everything from the mock execution of Iraqi juveniles to the actual execution of Iraqi prisoners, today brought an altogether different tale of military abuse, courtesy of the Associated Press. The protagonist: 23-year-old Army Spc. Marquise J. Roberts, a supply specialist on a two-week leave from the 3rd Infantry Division, which led the assault on Baghdad in 2003. While visiting family yesterday in Philadelphia, Roberts suffered a minor wound to his left leg from a .22-caliber pistol and was treated at a hospital. But after Roberts and his cousin gave police differing accounts of the shooting--one blamed an attempted robbery, the other an argument gone awry--Roberts and his cousin "broke down and confessed that they concocted the whole story so [Roberts] didn't have to go back to the war," police Lt. James Clark told the Associated Press. Roberts has been charged with filing a false report and his cousin with aggravated assault; if the charges prove true, Roberts could face additional military discipline.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16 Speaking of discipline: Today brought a refreshing blast of punitive justice to a Bible-thumping psycho in Vancouver, WA, as a jury at the Clark County superior court sentenced 33-year-old father of nine Edwin Baxter to three years in prison for attempting to circumcise his 8-year-old son with a hunting knife. According to the Associated Press, Edwin Baxter called 911 on September 3, informing the dispatcher he'd been reading the Old Testament and was inspired to attempt the circumcision of his son. But when the bleeding wouldn't stop, Baxter turned to the authorities, who quickly patched up the son and arrested the father for assault of a child. Spooky twist: At the time of Baxter's arrest, his 30-year-old wife Tammy was pregnant and caring for the couple's already existing nine children. Since Baxter's arrest, state officials have been unable to find Tammy or any of the kids. Stay tuned.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17 Today brought a passionate request from Bremerton reader Mike, who writes, "For God's sake, Last Days, just for the Christmas issue, please do not include the story of the Missouri woman who showed her new baby around dressed in pink before she was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of the eight-month-pregnant real mother. And while you're at it, please also do not include the matter of the nurse at the psychiatric hospital in France whose head was severed and left atop the television. Please." Dear Mike: Your wish is our command.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18 Speaking of readers' requests: Today we turn to a couple of long-simmering queries from readers Lila and Liza. "Dear Last Days," writes Lila, "What is up with the incredibly ugly, garishly decorated carousel ponies that showed up on random street corners in downtown Seattle this month? I thought the pigs were bad, but these really take the cake." Dear Lila: According to the press release, "Ponies on Parade" is a "new public art project," featuring 50 decorated fiberglass ponies planted everywhere from Pioneer Square to the Denny Triangle neighborhood, reportedly in order to "add whimsy and spirit to the holiday season." Hope this helps. "Dear Last Days," writes Lisa, "Where did the Gravity Bar go to? I looked away and it turned into a humongous QFC boutique." Dear Lisa: You're right, the Gravity Bar is gone, and nothing can ever bring it back. Please learn how to enjoy Jack in the Box.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19 The week ends with yet another horrible explosion in Iraq, with car bombs tearing through a Najaf funeral procession and Karbala's main bus station, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 120 others.
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