The week kicks off with this attention-grabbing headline from the Associated Press: Boy, 13, drowns carrying heavy chain across a pond while imitating stunt from movie. Contrary to Last Days' initial fears, the deadly stunt wasn't inspired by The Hours, the lesbo-rrific Oscar fave in which Nicole Kidman's Virginia Woolf loads her pockets with stones and sinks to her watery grave, but by Blue Crush, the lesbo-rrific surfer flick in which a girl-surfer-in-training carries a large rock while jogging on the ocean floor. According to the Associated Press, 13-year-old Anthony Alfonsin attempted to imitate Blue Crush's rock-jogging stunt with three or four of his friends in Port Salerno, Florida. In lieu of an ocean, the kids used a 15-foot-deep manmade pond; instead of a rock, they used a 10-foot tow chain, which Anthony Alfonsin tied around his waist before attempting to swim across the pond. Witnesses say they tried to save Anthony, but the chain was too heavy, and neither summoned parents nor rescue workers arrived in time.


In much better news, today brought the unveiling of two new House bills designed to improve the lives of homosexuals in Washington State. First up is House Bill 1809, the nondiscrimination measure that's been floating around the state capitol for nearly a decade. If passed, HB 1809 would extend the state's antidiscrimination laws (including protections in employment, housing, real estate, and public accommodations) to gays and lesbians. Governor Gary Locke has rallied behind House Bill 1809, praising the nondiscrimination bill as "common-sense legislation [that is] long overdue." Receiving a somewhat chillier reception is House Bill 1939, which seeks to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples. Strategically avoiding the bigot-inflaming phrase "gay marriage," HB 1939 seeks to authorize homosexual couples to carry out civil ceremonies with the fully licensed blessing of county auditors and officiated by clergy, judges, or any others authorized to perform weddings. Even better, these registered-and-licensed civil unions would bestow all the rights and responsibilities of heterosexual marriage, including power of attorney, property division, and child custody. Predictably, religious conservatives have denounced both measures, with the civil-unionizing HB 1939 receiving the most violently stupid attacks. "For us, it's out of concern for issues of public health," said Rick Forcier, director of Washington State's Christian Coalition, to the Seattle Times. "[Gay marriage] seems to us to be a work against nature, a very quick trip to 40 or more kinds of sexually transmitted disease. It is an unhealthy thing." Not so predictably, Rick Forcier's painfully stupid quote so offended some Seattle Times readers they denounced reporter David Ammons for even including it. "Why would anyone print such ridiculous non-fact and completely undisguised religious prejudice as if it were some kind of valid counterpoint to this legislation?" fumed reader Chris Fediani. However, Ammons' choice of quote struck Last Days as, perhaps, an exceedingly tasteful way of exposing the Christian Coalition's uniquely bigoted idiocy without casting a single stone; as efforts to contact David Ammons to verify his motives were unsuccessful, readers will have to draw their own conclusions. As for the Christian Coalition's idiotic Mr. Forcier: Should Last Days deign to respond to his brain-numbingly dumb logic, we'd point out that he couldn't have concocted a less plausible objection to gay marriage. If anything, establishing a legally sanctioned alternative to the "cruise-and-booze" gay lifestyle of yore would only lower sexually transmitted disease. But for homo-hating religious conservatives, maintaining a self-serving, paradoxical view of homosexuality--denouncing the promiscuous, godless "gay lifestyle" while stifling every gay effort toward social and spiritual inclusion--is the name of the game.


Today Last Days turns to an event that occurred exactly one week ago, which we learned of only this morning via the miracle of chain e-mail: the deeply impressive Senate floor speech given by West Virginian senator Robert Byrd. Delivered by the octogenarian Democrat back on February 12, Byrd's fierce, fearless address was a veritable call to arms to his sleepwalking Senate colleagues to wake up and smell the impending war, with the widely disseminated text of Byrd's speech lighting innumerable fires under the asses of America's equally passive citizenry. Eloquently blasting the Senate for remaining "ominously, dreadfully silent" as President Bush's "reckless and arrogant administration" sets the stage for World War III, Sen. Byrd openly questioned the president's application of the "doctrine of preemption": "The idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future is a radical new twist on self-defense," warns Byrd, offering up a bevy of reasons why President Bush shouldn't be trusted to put this previously theoretical doctrine to political use. "This administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name-calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come.... We are truly sleepwalking through history. In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for the rudest of awakenings." Word, Byrd.


Tonight in a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, a pyrotechnics display used by '80s hard-rockers Great White accidentally ignited a fire that burned the nightclub to the ground and claimed 97 lives, thus becoming the worst tragedy in the history of rock 'n' roll.


Today countless citizens across the U.S. found themselves wondering (then immediately felt guilty about having found themselves wondering), "Who knew Great White had 97 fans to kill?"


In much lighter news: Readers may recall last week's story of Hot Tipper Mindy, the lucky lady who was gambling in Las Vegas when she was mistakenly given an extra $90 in change by a |bartender at the ritzy casino the Bellagio; after happily pocketing the cash, Mindy found herself so racked with guilt she finally mailed a refund check to the none-the-wiser casino. Well, today brought the fascinating final chapter to Mindy's moralistic saga, as the good folks at the Bellagio--specifically, Letitia Gonzalez, director of beverage--rewarded Mindy's overbearing conscience with a kind letter and the return of her uncashed check. "We sincerely appreciate your concern regarding the cash transaction and the possible overage you received," wrote Ms. Gonzalez. "If there was an error on the part of our bartender, we will take full responsibility for any discrepancy. Thank you for your honesty and concern." Congratulations to Mindy on her well-earned refund, which she reports she will gamble away at Oregon's Spirit Mountain casino at the earliest possible convenience.


Nothing happened today (unless you count the Grammy Awards, which we don't, even though we watched every goddamn minute of 'em).

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