The week began with a splat, as a 41-year-old man fell from the I-90 overpass onto I-5, where he was hit by a car. The Seattle Times reports that tonight's fatal accident began as Seattle police were searching through a transient camp beneath I-90 at around 9:45 p.m. Police were looking for a fugitive when the aforementioned man bolted from the camp, climbed over a concrete barrier onto the overpass, and dropped into the south lanes of I-5, where he was hit by the aforementioned car. Authorities say man was not the fugitive they were seeking and was not chased by police en route to his deadly plunge, which has yet to be identified as either a suicide or a slip. Still, our condolences to the unlucky commuter cast by fate in the role of this jumpy man's vehicular killer.

·· Speaking of fallen men: Today endlessly creepy U.S. Representative Gary Condit was named to the brand new Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. For those readers having difficulty remembering anything pre-Sept. 11, Condit is the rep from Modesto, CA who recently squirmed his way through an excruciating interview with Connie Chung following the mysterious disappearance of his lover/intern Chandra Levy. The first item on Condit's list of key precautionary measures for American citizens: Don't date me.


Today brought the wrap-up to the worst public relations disaster since Tommy Hilfiger's "If I knew my designs would wind up on the backs of ghetto trash I never woulda made 'em" gaffe a few years back. This morning, the head of a Brooklyn ambulance company told the Associated Press that he received a personal apology from the president of Starbucks after the company's Sept. 11 flub, when rescue workers in New York were forced to pay a Starbucks shop $130 for bottled water used to treat victims of the terrorist attack. Midwood Ambulance Service president Al Rapisarda said he received a hand-delivered reimbursement check--along with a personal call from Starbucks prez Orin Smith--after reports of the incident became public. "It's not a big deal anymore," Rapisarda said after talking to Smith, adding that he was happy with Starbucks' conciliatory gestures, which included free coffee and other gifts.


Some pains aren't so easily assuaged: In a shockingly frank and unequivocal report, today federal investigators revealed that the deaths of four firefighters in Washington's Thirty Mile Fire were entirely avoidable. On July 10, an exploding wildfire in the narrow Chewuch River valley took the lives of firefighters Tom Craven, Jessica Johnson, Karen FitzPatrick, and Devin Weaver (and required lucky surviving firefighter Jason Emhoff to undergo a procedure in which his badly burned left hand was placed inside his stomach). Today's 100-plus-page review of the tragedy--conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and reported in the Seattle Times--found that every one of the 10 commandments designed to ensure safety was broken, and most of the warning signs that the fire was growing dangerous went unheeded. Among the 14 "significant" factors that led to the deaths were rampant fatigue, the failure to establish crucial escape routes, and an inadequate gauge of the fire's potential danger throughout the day. "The Thirty Mile Fire tragedy could have been prevented," said deputy Forest Service chief Jim Furnish. "This tragic accident was the result of many factors--factors that are agonizingly familiar." But admissions of guilt aren't enough to console the victims' families. "There's no accountability," said Kathie FitzPatrick, whose daughter Karen, a rookie firefighter, lost her life in the blaze. "My daughter may as well have fallen into a volcano." Meanwhile, another investigation of the fire, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is nearing completion; according to OSHA's acting regional supervisor, Dean Ikeda, it "could have implications for the [U.S. Forest Service] agency as a whole."

·· Speaking of fire: Today in Kabul, Afghanistan, thousands of anti-U.S. demonstrators broke into the compound of the vacant U.S. embassy, set fire to some abandoned cars, and created a huge blaze that enveloped some outbuildings but not the main embassy itself. In a minutely funny twist, the blaze was extinguished and the protesters kept under control by Taliban firefighters and soldiers.


Remember the good old days, when the name of this column was a wry twist on words, rather than a bald statement of fact? When airline travel was only mildly terrifying? And when the "news" that Ben Affleck was ticketed last night for driving 114 mph in his Cadillac on Georgia's Interstate 16 would've mattered to someone, somewhere? Neither can we.

>> In other, better news: Today the Associated Press reported the scandal that's rocking the border town of McAllen, Texas. That's where the owners of JJ's Party House are coming under fire for stocking piñatas bearing the likeness of Osama bin Laden. "I've received at least 100 calls," says shop owner Rene Karam. "People are saying, 'How can you be so greedy as to make money off a national tragedy?'" This isn't the first time Karam has sold papier-mâché adaptations of American villains: Previous piñatas of Monica Lewinsky and Saddam Hussein sold well and drew no complaints. But for many residents of McAllen, the Osama piñatas cross the line. Karam, who is of Lebanese descent, said that many callers complained that the piñatas "reinforced negative stereotypes of people from the Middle East"--most notably the stereotype that Middle Eastern people are filled with candy and should be struck with bats.

·· And oh yeah: Today was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.


Speaking of Jews: That's who Allah-loving nutbag Osama bin Laden is blaming for the recent terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. In an interview-by-mail with the daily Karachi paper Ummat (who submitted questions for bin Laden to Taliban officials and received written replies), bin Laden denied any involvement in the U.S. terror attacks and pointed the finger at Jews, reasoning that Florida's Jewish community has not forgiven President Bush for his controversial victory in the U.S. election. And while Last Days can derive a tiny bit of pleasure from the image of a bunch of renegade Jewish grandmothers hijacking a plane (a maneuver far more intricate than figuring out a goddamn butterfly ballot), we're deeply disappointed that this supposed "terrorist mastermind" couldn't come up with a less pathetic excuse.


Last week, Last Days reported the story of Mindy, the pop culture lover who blamed the Taliban for ruining her enjoyment of Glitter, the abysmal Mariah Carey musical film. Like Mindy, Last Days also regretted losing our ability to appreciate Glitter in the wake of the events of Sept. 11. Fortunately, this week's People, featuring a review of Carey's film by Tom Gliatto, provided us with the closest we're gonna get to a legitimate Glitter experience. From his description of Carey's character ("a chanteuse who reaches toward stardom, only to find her ankles tethered by heartache") to his summing up of Carey's performance ("She is so recessive, so timid, so passive, one wonders whether she had to be carried limp from scene to scene"), Gliatto's fearless, poetic mini-dissection of Glitter was precisely what we needed. (Confidential to Tom Gliatto: If Last Days didn't already have an award-winning boyfriend, you'd probably find us sleeping in your front yard. So count your blessings.)


As Lucinda Williams so beautifully croons, "I can't seem to make it through Sundays." Sorry.

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