The week kicked off with a teensy bit of good news, as the Associated Press reported the story of the Japanese woman impregnated via artificial insemination by the sperm of her HIV-positive husband, who has given birth to a completely healthy baby! The mini-miracle was made possible after doctors at Tottori University placed the husband's HIV-positive sperm into a centrifuge to separate the sperm from the virus, then subjected the sperm to what's known as the "swim-up method," in which doctors remove only active sperm to further filter out the HIV. "Both the mother and baby have tested negative for the virus," said Dr. Tasuku Harada, citing 1,600 successful cases of similar treatment around the world, and giving hope to single women and their gay male friends all over the globe.


More birthing news: Today the New York Times offered startling evidence of the existence of an occasionally obedient God, as they reported the findings of a Columbia University study linking prayer and pregnancy. The study involved 199 Korean women who went to the in vitro fertilization clinic at Seoul's Cha Hospital for help becoming pregnant. Unbeknownst to the women and the clinic's medical staff, researchers gave different Christian denominations in the U.S., Canada, and Australia photographs of the patients and asked them to pray. The prayers themselves were deployed in a strategic, three-tiered approach: One group prayed directly for the women, a second group prayed for the first praying group, and a third group prayed for the other two groups. The results (published in the current Journal of Reproductive Health): Women who received prayers became pregnant twice as often as those who did not. Dr. Rogerio Lobo, lead author of the study, said he and his colleagues thought long and hard about whether to publish their findings, since they seemed so improbable. In the end, the differing pregnancy rates between the two groups of women proved too significant to ignore. "It was not even something that was borderline significant," said Dr. Lobo. "It was highly significant." (Earlier studies suggest that prayer by strangers also seemed to help heart patients, but failed to produce any effect on the outcome of the Grammys.)


And away we go: Today outside of Manchester, Tennessee, a passenger on a Greyhound bus attacked the driver, cutting his throat with a box cutter and causing a crash that killed six of the 40 people on board. The driver survived, and at press time was in stable condition, while the attacker--described by the Associated Press as being between 30 and 35 years of age, jittery, and in possession of a Croatian passport--was thrown through the windshield and died. Authorities have classified the incident as the work of a "deranged individual," and say the attack was unrelated to the terrorist attacks of September 11, when men with foreign passports used box cutters to cut the throats of several pilots and flight crews. Okay.

··Speaking of deranged individuals: Today the German magazine Der Spiegel spilled the beans on the creepy will left by Muslim suicide hijacker Mohammed Atta, who died while crashing a commercial airliner into the World Trade Center on September 11. Written in 1996 and discovered in Atta's abandoned car at Boston's Logan Airport, the will lists 18 precise instructions for the preparation of Atta's body for burial. "Neither pregnant women nor unclean people should say goodbye to me. Those who wash my body must be good Muslims. He who washes around my genitals should wear gloves so I am not touched there." Atta wrapped things up with a "no chicks" ordinance: "Women must not be present at my funeral or go to my grave at any later date." And while Last Days takes grim pleasure in knowing that the über-finicky Atta currently rests in pieces under tons of mangled concrete and steel, we kinda hope he gets the Muslim cemetery burial he requested. We've got a great idea for a new location for the next Lilith Fair.

··Speaking of people writing idiotic things: Last week, Last Days denounced the recent Starbucks gaffe (charging New York rescue workers for bottled water) as "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 week, several readers wrote to inform us that Hilfiger is innocent, and his "famous quote" is nothing but an urban legend. Right. Next they'll be telling us that the photo of the maid with our toothbrush was Photoshopped, and that Richard Gere has never even seen a gerbil. (Mea culpa, Tommy Hilfiger.)


Oh, goody: Today near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, doctors confirmed the largest outbreak in history of a highly contagious disease that causes patients to bleed to death from every orifice. The Associated Foreign Press reports that at least 75 people have caught Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever, and eight have died. According to doctors, the Ebola-like virus damages arteries, veins, and other blood vessels, leading to the collapse of major organs; as one doctor put it, a patient suffering from haemorrhagic fever "literally melts in front of your eyes."

··Speaking of news items that should inspire you to buy a gas mask and write a will: Today health officials in Palm Beach County confirmed the hospitalization of a 63-year-old man in critical condition with anthrax. Tomorrow this man--Bob Stevens--will die, and a co-worker will be found to have anthrax spores in his nostrils. (Tomorrow this man--Bob Stevens--will die, and a co-worker will be found to have anthrax spores in his nostrils.)


In much lighter news: Today the Seattle Times offered another installment in their "series of stories looking at how our lives and communities have been transformed by the terrorist attacks." The newest recipient of the Times' sociological spotlight: The Navy town of Bremerton, where the sailors are gone--and the women are horny! "Oh my God, you walk into a place now and there's just an insurmountable amount of chicks," said 22-year-old Abbie Thorsen to Times reporter Christine Clarridge. "With all the guys gone, the girls are totally on the hunt and ruthless. They walk around in their little Daisy Dukes and I start thinking maybe I should just go home and get pizza and a movie." Abbie Thorsen went on to reveal that she and her friends prefer Navy men over civilians because "they have jobs, they have cars, and they're hot." But not everyone's complaining about the gender imbalance: "This is, like, an unreal night," said 31-year-old Brett Johnson, as he eyed the crowd in the J.A. Michaels pub in Port Orchard. "There's a ton of girls here, and they're attractive, too!" Horny guys, adventurous lesbians, and sex-toy salespersons: Car ferries to Bremerton leave from downtown Seattle several times daily.


More whimsy: Today the Associated Press reported the story of the Burger King employees who burned their feet when they walked over white-hot coals at a meeting intended to promote bonding. At least a dozen slavishly devoted subjects of the Burger King (all of them marketing-department workers) received first- or second-degree burns during the morale-building firewalk, with one woman taken to a hospital emergency room and several others requiring wheelchairs the following day. Obviously, there's some "flame-broiled your way" joke to be made here, but we're tired.


Today the United States bombed Afghanistan and cancelled the Emmys.

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