The week begins with a tantalizing Hot Tip from Hot Tipper Haleigh, who was skiing last week in Taos, New Mexico, when she and her boyfriend found themselves on a chairlift with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to whom Haleigh promptly gave a piece of her liberal, anti-war-in-Iraq mind. Upon receiving the thrilling tip, Last Days immediately e-mailed Haleigh for details and specifics of her collision with Rumsfeld--but never received another peep from her. Which obviously means one of two things: Either she's lying, or Rumsfeld had her whacked.

··Speaking of the secretary of defense: Devoted readers will recall that goddamned Washington Post article Last Days spent all last week obsessing about. Well, yet another fascinating aspect of that thoroughly obsession-worthy article (penned by Barton Gellman and published on December 24) was its insight into the chain of governmental command in the event of a deadly (and perhaps nuclear) attack on the nation's capitol. Here's the gist according to Gellman: Should the president and his top three constitutional successors--the vice-president, Speaker of the House, and president pro tem of the Senate--all die, the presidency moves down a list of cabinet secretaries. However, once the House elects a new, living Speaker, the law is silent on whether this new Speaker should replace the former cabinet member to claim the presidency. So far President Bush has kept conspicuously mum on what officials see as "a dangerous hole in the Presidential Succession Act of 1947," so Last Days offers these thoughts on proper succession in the chain of command. Should the president and his constitutional successors all bite it, core leadership of the United States will be equally divided between four living entities: know-it-all author/statesman Gore Vidal; cackling, can-do cancer mom Sharon Osbourne; life-loving buttrocker Andrew W. K.; and The Stranger's managing editor, Min Liao.


Despite rising anxiety over the deadly threat of terrorism, today Reuters reported that in 2002 far more people were killed by natural disasters than by any manmade catastrophe, thus providing countless citizens with the perversely comforting knowledge that, despite the combined best efforts of terrorists, tyrants, suicide bombers, and freelance snipers, the world's deadliest murderer continues to be God.


Today in Florida, an Isuzu sports vehicle blew a tire and flipped over, ejecting all six of its passengers onto the pavement of Broward County's Alligator Alley, where one died; the other five were tended to by Bill Frist, the second-term Tennessee senator recently tapped to succeed Trent Lott as Senate majority leader. "As a doctor, my first instincts are to help," Senator Frist told Reuters. Prior to his career in politics, Frist worked as a surgeon; at the time of the crash, Frist was traveling to a family gathering in Fort Lauderdale. "I was privileged to offer my assistance today at the scene of this horrible accident," he said. Last Days congratulates Senator Frist on his very good deed, and prays that this felicitous bit of philanthropy doesn't blind the nation to Frist's iffier aspects, the foremost of which is a virulent anti-abortion stance that has garnered Senator Frist perfect scores from National Right to Life Committee for the past six years, and positioned him as a potentially key force in the upcoming battle to tighten federal restrictions on legalized abortion. Reproductive-rights advocates have widely denounced Senator Frist's views on abortion as "virtually indistinguishable from Trent Lott's," but Frist has repeatedly pissed off anti-abortion hardliners by urging Bush to approve federal funding for the exceedingly humane practice of embryonic stem cell research. Which means Senator Frist may be a pro-choicer's worst nightmare: a rational, thoughtful, and brave politician who thinks abortion is murder and will fight to make the law treat it as such. (Get those partial-birth abortions while you can, ladies.)


Today brought a richly satisfying conclusion to the story of Kenny Moller, the 49-year-old Tacoma salesman whose death-defying saga began last Sunday, when Moller headed out for a solo bike ride. After crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and hitting Gig Harbor's Moller Drive (named for his ancestors), Moller lost control of his bike, went off the road, and tumbled to the bottom of a steep ravine, where he spent the next four days crawling semiconscious among the brush and brambles before being discovered by a jogger on Wednesday. "I thought I was dead," Moller told reporters today, describing how he believed he'd gone to Hell, where he was destined to crawl through muddy brush in spandex biking shorts for the rest of eternity. Lucky for him, Moller wasn't dead, just delusional, and after nearly 96 hours in his fake-out Hell, Moller finally managed to drag himself out of the ravine to be discovered, caked in mud and stiff from cold, by a passing jogger. Taken to Tacoma General Hospital, Moller was found to be in "miraculously good condition" (as hospital officials told The Seattle Times) and sent on his way. Today Kenny Moller returned to the scene of his accident to reclaim his black Jamis Aragon Cross Country bicycle; in the future, Moller told the Times, he will leave a detailed note and route when he goes for rides.


In other triumphant news: After six months spent wowing various hipsters in NYC (from They Might Be Giants to The New Yorker), tonight the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players made their network TV debut on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Appearing on a bill with Nathan Lane and Sean "Lord of the Rings/Patty Duke's son" Astin, the Trachtenburgs performed their classic, "Look at Me," the very number that garnered the band first prize in the Pizzazz! talent show in 2000. Congrats to the Trachtenburgs on a job well done, and to Conan O'Brien for beating Letterman to the punch.


Nothing happened today (unless you count Reuters' report of the human foot--complete with painted toenails--found in a washing machine at a commercial laundry in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm).


Nothing happened today either (unless you count the security screener found sleeping at his post at Sea-Tac International Airport, thus necessitating the evacuation of all but one of the airport's five concourses and delaying thousands of travelers. Airport authorities say the screener was asleep for between eight and 30 minutes; said sleepy screener was subsequently canned by the Transportation Security Administration).

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