The week got off to a rousing start today as the Associated Press trumpeted the point-blank blasting of the Catholic Church by wayward hiphop superstar Lauryn Hill, who was performing as part of a Christmas concert at the Vatican when she unleashed a torrent of stunningly ambitious insolence. "I'm not here to celebrate, like you, the birth of Christ, but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death in this place," railed the 28-year-old Hill before 7,500 guests and "stunned hierarchy in the front row" of the Paul VI hall. "Holy God has witnessed the corruption of your leadership... the exploitation and abuses," said Hill, closing her scripted rant by asking church leaders to "repent." Speaking of repenting: Last Days hereby takes back every snotty thing we've ever said about Lauryn Hill, whom we adored during her tenure as a Fugee, appreciated from afar during her Grammy-rich Miseducation, and mocked openly during her "hear me go nuts over two minor chords" Unplugged 2.0.

--Also today: News agencies across the land confirmed a rumor that had been floating around since the end of the Civil War: Strom Thurmond-- the South Carolina senator who once ran for the U.S. presidency on a segregationist platform and executed a 24-hour filibuster against civil rights--fathered an illegitimate daughter with an African American woman. On Wednesday, 78-year-old Essie Mae Washington-Williams will appear on 60 Minutes II, where Dan Rather will ask if she believes her father was a racist. "Not in his heart," his exceedingly generous daughter will reply, flattering her dead father's memory and forwarding the quietly atrocious theory that provisional racism is somehow less repugnant than "real" racism.


Speaking of repugnant: Today the Associated Press reported on the hottest new misdemeanor of the past two decades: roadside disposal of human waste. Profiled in the article was a highway cleanup crew from Washington State's own Adams County Waste Reduction & Recycling, which picked up a reported 2,666 jugs of urine and 67 bags of human excrement from Eastern Washington roadsides in 2002. Thanks to a new piece of legislation, potentially dangerous litter--including human waste, dirty diapers, hypodermic needles, cigarettes, cigars, and all other fire hazards--earns a fine of $1,025 for anyone caught dumping such waste, but the stiffer penalties aren't deterring many roadside dumpers. "It's incredible what's out there," says highway supervisor Karen Cagle, who'd never heard of urine jugs prior to starting her job in 1989, but has since seen the number of jugs expand annually. "Where is it going to stop?" (Our guess: It won't--at least not until the improperly dumped crud begins to hinder the flow of traffic or in any way threatens the Super Bowl.)


Today brought the best story in the world, as the Associated Press reported the deeply satisfying saga of Adrian Castillo Ramirez, a convicted sex offender in Bakersfield, Texas, who attempted his favored rape-at-knifepoint on a 24-year-old Bakersfield prostitute--only to have the 275-pound working girl swipe his knife, strip him naked, and parade him in front of the other prostitutes before handing him over to police, who charged Ramirez with failing to register as a sex offender, and with committing forcible sex acts on the 24-year-old and on a 37-year-old woman in a previous incident.

-- Today also brought the worst story in the world, as the Associated Press reported the mind-fucking saga of Shelley Weber, the 24-year-old Ohio woman who overcame both childhood cancer and partial paralysis from a high-school car wreck only to be brutally beaten to death, with her body found this morning behind her home in Shelby, Ohio.


Today Michael Jackson was charged with nine felonies in connection with the latest accusations of criminal sexual conduct against the embattled 45-year-old entertainer, including seven counts of engaging in a lewd act with a child under 14, and two counts of administering an "intoxicating agent" to a child under 14 with intent to commit child molestation. If convicted, Jackson faces three to eight years in prison on each count.


Despite pleadings for leniency and a perceived threat of nepotism, today a King County Superior Court judge sentenced Joseph Lehman Jr., the 38-year-old son of Washington State Department of Corrections head Joseph Lehman Sr., to four years in prison for the rape of his girlfriend's two-month-old daughter.


Today nearly 600 friends, fans, and well-wishers converged on Neverland to show their support for Michael Jackson--including fellow Jacksons (LaToya, Jermaine, Randy, Tito, Marlon, Rebbie, and Janet), fellow celebs (MC Hammer, Lionel Richie, Darryl Strawberry), Nation of Islam Chief of Staff Leonard Muhammad, and "lots and lots of children," according to a Fox News exclusive. "My sources said that Jackson did spend a big part of the dinner segment of the evening chatting with an unidentified dwarf," reports Fox's Roger Friedman, whose equally unidentified source reported that "the day ended with a candlelight vigil, and the whole crowd singing along to Jackson's 'You Are Not Alone.'"


While Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced the elevation of the nation's terror-threat alert to high-risk-of-attack orange, today Last Days received an answer to a question posed in last week's column in regard to Depends adult diapers, whose latest television commercials mysteriously feature a bewigged-and-bediapered opera diva crowing, "Now all I have to worry about is hitting the high notes!" Was the spokesmodel diva an arbitrary selection, or was Depends addressing a legitimate concern of the opera world? According to Hot Tipper Misha, the answer is both. "Many women, especially those who have had children, have some mild urinary incontinence as they age--which is why most adult-diaper commercials are aimed at women. (Men who've had prostate or other cancer also are inclined to this, but it is more of a women's issue.) Sneezing, coughing, and 'hitting the high notes' are inclined to cause a bit of leakage for those women whose Kegels are past their primes. Just wait: You too will get old and something you now take for granted--your eyes, ears, bladder, knees, or some other favorite part--will give out, so no poking fun at the diva, dude." Yes'm.

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