MONDAY, JULY 18 This week of great and terrible things kicks off with the humongous scandal devouring News International, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation whose employees stand accused of police bribery and phone hacking. Alleged victims of the hacking range from movie stars and royal family members to child murder victims and relatives of dead soldiers, with the attendant UK outrage forcing the closure of News of the World, the Murdoch property that's been published for the past 168 years. (That is not exaggeration. It is a fact.) Yesterday brought the arrest of Rebekah Brooks—the key Murdoch crony who'd served as News International's chief executive until her abrupt resignation last week—and today the intrigue multiplied again, with the resignation of a second high-ranking member of Scotland Yard who'd been stained by the scandal. Also today: The discovery of Hackgate's first casualty, Sean Hoare, the 47-year-old News of the World writer who first blew the whistle on the paper's alleged phone hacking habits, who was today found dead in his Hertfordshire home. (Pertinent fact: Hoare was well known for his giant appetite for coke and booze, which suggests his death is much less murdery than it seems.) The week to come will bring continued scandalous delights, including contentious testimony before Parliament by Rupert and James Murdoch, and the investigation of News International's recently resigned law firm. Stay tuned.
TUESDAY, JULY 19 Today brings the week's first blast of horror, courtesy of Tyler Hadley, the 17-year-old in Port St. Lucie, Florida, who stands accused of killing his parents with a hammer. Timeline details come from CNN and make everything worse. This past Saturday afternoon, Hadley posted an invitation to Facebook, inviting friends to a party at his house that night. After making the post, police allege, Hadley beat his parents to death with a 22-ounce framing hammer, stowing their corpses in a locked bedroom before opening the house to several dozen revelers. "Between 40 and 60 people turned up sometime after 9 p.m.," reports CNN. "Police became involved after getting an anonymous tip... They eventually found the alleged murder weapon lying between [the] parents' bodies." Charged with two counts of second-degree murder, Hadley has pleaded not guilty. "There is a very long, significant, documented history of mental illness in young Mr. Hadley," his public defender told the New York Times. "This is going to be a major issue in this young man's case."
WEDNESDAY, JULY 20 In much better news, today brought the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act, aka the bill that would strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law of 1996 restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Amid the many eloquent defenses of marriage equality and denunciations of DOMA's unconstitutional discrimination, one speaker rose above: Senator Al Franken, the comedian-turned-politician who smartly dismantled a Focus on the Family member's bogus claims about the inferiority of same-sex parents.
••In much worse news, today the United Nations officially declared famine in Somalia, where an estimated 10 million people are suffering through the country's worst drought in 50 years. As BBC News reports, the horrifying criteria for famine include acute malnutrition in more than 30 percent of children and "two adults or four children dying of hunger each day for every group of 10,000 people." In response to the ever-worsening tragedy, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton pledged an extra $28 million in emergency aid to counter the famine, and hopefully today's UN declaration will get dozens of countries to follow suit. Complicating everything: Al Shabab, the Al Qaeda–affiliated militant Islamic group that controls large swaths of south and central Somalia and has banned foreign aid in its territories since 2009, an on-again/off-again prohibition that the group will tomorrow announce is on again. "The lift of the ban on aid agencies doesn't include the agencies that we banned earlier in areas we control because those agencies don't do relief work," said Al Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage to the radio station Al Furqaan. "They are spies and work on political agendas." The standoff continues.
THURSDAY, JULY 21 After so much horror, we turn to some much-needed meaningless bullshit, molded today in the shape of Lindsay Lohan, the child star turned young actress of note turned repeatedly rehabbed jailbird, who today appeared in a Los Angeles court in Louboutin heels to announce that she couldn't afford court-mandated psychological counseling. "A lapse in Lindsay Lohan's health insurance—because she's not been working in the past year—has prevented her from paying for the psychological counseling ordered as part of her probation, her lawyer revealed in court Thursday," reports CNN. "Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner... warn[ed] Lohan she had 21 days to sign up for counseling... She could be ordered to jail unless she proves within three weeks that she has found a psychologist, Sautner said... The judge chided Lohan for completing only 33 of the required 480 hours of community service so far. If it's not finished within a year, she could go to jail." Silver lining for Lohan: Judge Sautner ruled that she is now allowed to drink alcohol and is no longer required to submit to random drug tests.
FRIDAY, JULY 22 From mindless bullshit that is mildly diverting, we turn to mindless bullshit that is a tragedy. Our setting: Norway, where today brought a double whammy of horror, allegedly at the hands of one man—32-year-old Anders Breivik, a self-professed crusader against "the threats of Islam, immigration, and multiculturalism" who authorities say today detonated a car bomb outside government offices in Oslo (killing eight people and seriously wounding many more) before taking a ferry to the small island of Utoya, where he gunned down kids at a summer camp sponsored by the ruling Labor Party, killing 68 people before surrendering to police. He remains jailed on charges of terrorism.
••In better news that can't really offset the horror of a political extremist hunting down rival party members' kids, today President Obama announced that the 60-day countdown to the end of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the US military has begun. "Obama, with his top men at the Pentagon, formally 'certified' to Congress that the present 'don't ask, don't tell' policy will end in mid-September without harming 'military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces,'" reports CNN. "Hurrah," reports Last Days.
SATURDAY, JULY 23 Nothing happened today, unless you count the sad death of Amy Winehouse, whose artistic accomplishments and personal failures are dealt with in depth on page 25.
SUNDAY, JULY 24 This nightmare of a week laced with thrillingly concrete steps toward gay equality concludes with a final blast of progress, as gay and lesbian couples in New York State started exercising their freshly activated marriage rights by getting married. The various internet slide shows of just-wed couples—especially those composed of octogenarians-and-above who've lived together for decades and are now blushing newlyweds—made us happier than we can express.
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