MONDAY, DECEMBER 13 This week of busted bacteria, horrifying budget cuts, and historic victories for equality kicks off with a tale of vigilante justice in Germany, where 47-year-old Helmut Seifert was set on the path to vengeance by his discovery of the ongoing relationship between his 17-year-old daughter and a 57-year-old man. As the Telegraph reports, Pa Seifert first sought the help of the police. But after authorities in the town of Bielefeld said they were powerless to intervene, Seifert took matters into his own hands. "[Seifert] recruited two work colleagues at his factory and then went to the house of [Phillip Genscher]," police told the Telegraph. "The man was forced to remove his trousers and, fully conscious, he was castrated. The severed testicles were taken away by the perpetrator." The instrument of castration was reportedly a bread knife, the profusely bleeding victim was rescued by police, and Seifert will face trial for attempted murder next year. And while Seifert pleaded guilty at his arraignment, he's refused to name his accomplices. "I received a phone call anonymously that my daughter was involved with a guy 40 years older than her," said Seifert to police. "You said you couldn't stop him—so I did. I saw it as my duty as a father."
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14 The week continues in Florida, where this afternoon a 56-year-old man whose wife had recently been laid off by the Panama City school district whipped out a gun at a school board meeting, fired at several board members at close range, and missed them all before fatally shooting himself in the head. As regular readers are aware, Last Days loves it when those who commit murder-suicide do the suicide part first—and while today's gun-wielding freak only made the cut by virtue of his crappy aim, we'll take what we can get.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15 Today brings the shocking unveiling of the new state budget proposed by Governor Chris Gregoire, a slashy bloodbath containing approximately $3 billion in cuts and 80 instances of the world "eliminate." Among the cuts in the 2011–13 budget: the Basic Health program, which provides subsidized medical insurance to 66,000 lower-income Washingtonians; the Disability Lifeline program, which funds an array of social services, including medical care for survivors of domestic violence; the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides medical coverage for 27,000 children; and a state food-stamp program for those not eligible for federal food stamps. "I hate my budget," said Governor Gregoire through tears. "I hate it because in some places, I don't even think it's moral... We have had to cut the unthinkable to prevent the unbearable."
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16 In lighter news, the week continues with the mind-fucking of millions of American women, who certainly suffered a plague of stomach knots and musings on the power of the placebo effect today, as Dannon was ordered to pay $21 million to settle allegations that its allegedly poop-enhancing yogurt Activia does not actually help you poop. Today's allegations were brought by the attorneys general of 39 states, who collectively accused Dannon of illegally advertising Activia's ability to help regulate "sluggish digestive systems." As Seattlepi.com reports, "Washington State assistant attorney general Bob Lipson said Dannon had made up 'fancy names' for the bacteria in its Activia yogurt products, and marketed them as having unique health benefits. The fancy names, trademarked by Dannon, are 'Bifudus Regularis' and 'L. casei Immunitas.'" And while some studies have shown that some people with sluggish guts experienced "a modest benefit" from eating three servings of Activia a day, officials say that Dannon marketed the yogurt to all consumers, hyping the bowel-enhancing benefits of just one daily serving of the schmancy-bacteria goo. In agreeing to today's record-breaking settlement payout, Dannon denied all wrongdoing but agreed to marketing restrictions, including the stipulation that the company must have "reliable scientific evidence" to support any and all probiotic health claims. Bonus: $425,000 of today's payment will come to Washington State, which, as we all know, needs the fuck out of it.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17 Today brings the sad news of the death of Don Van Vliet, the American painter, sculptor, musician, and performance artist best known as Captain Beefheart, who today passed away from complications from multiple sclerosis at age 69. His music drew from outer space and the core of the earth, his visual art was his soul's work, and there will never be anyone else like him. (Though Polly and Tom do their best.) If you are unfamiliar with the glorious artsy racket made by the Captain and his Magic Band, allow me to recommend an intro point of Shiny Beast's "Owed T'Alex," available on iTunes for a mere 99 cents.
••In much better news: Today also brought a fourth night of victory for Tom Nissley, the Ballard man (and occasional Stranger contributor) who's been lugging around one of Seattle's biggest brains for as long as we've lived here, and who this evening won his fourth night in a row on the TV game show Jeopardy! Kill 'em, Nissley!
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18 The week continues with a glorious day for American equality, as the U.S. Senate followed the House's lead and voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the Clinton-era legislation banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military, which has been used to discharge more than 13,000 service members since 1993. "This is the defining civil rights initiative of this decade," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "Congress has taken an extraordinary step on behalf of men and women who've been denied their rightful integrity for too long." The repeal now goes to President Obama, who's vowed to sign it ASAP. For now, we'll just celebrate the president's eloquent statement in support of today's Senate vote: "It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor, and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed." Deep congratulations and thanks to all who fought so hard for so long to make today a reality, especially Lieutenant Dan Choi.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19 The week ends with a high-drama holiday story from Australia, where today 82-year-old Andrew Robertson reprised his role as Santa Claus at the annual Broughty Castle bowling club Christmas party in the city of Dundee. Clad in full Santa regalia, Robertson was handing out gifts to club members' grandkids when he suffered a tragic setback. "Children watched in horror as a Santa Claus collapsed and died," reports the Guardian. Attempts to revive Robertson were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. "Andy was a father figure in the club who never had a bad word to say about anyone," said Ian Smart, the bowling club's secretary. "If you asked him to do anything for you, he would always say, 'No problem.'" As for the little witnesses: "They didn't understand what had happened," said Smart. "One wee kid said, 'How are we going to get our presents next week if Father Christmas is ill?'" The kids' sad but nontraumatic confusion was confirmed by Robertson's brother, Alister, who told the Courier newspaper: "The kids saw him getting taken away. They knew something was wrong with Santa Claus as he went away with the two guys, but they didn't see anything further." As for his suddenly lost brother: "It has been quite a shock for everybody, but my view is that he was there thoroughly enjoying himself when he was struck down."
May we all be so lucky. Send Hot Tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.