MONDAY, JANUARY 4 This week of hair vandals, transgender trailblazers, and expansively awful acid attacks kicks off with an update on the new realities of international air travel in the wake of the foiled-by- civilians-and-terrorist-error Christmas Day bomb plot. Details come from the Obama administration, which announced yesterday that citizens of 14 nations will face "intensified" screening at airports worldwide before flying to the United States. As the New York Times reports, these 14 suspect countries include a handful of nations considered "state sponsors of terrorism" (Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria) alongside a bunch of "countries of interest" (Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen). "Passengers holding passports from those nations, or taking flights that originated or passed through any of them, will be required to undergo full-body pat downs and will face extra scrutiny of their carry-on bags before they can board planes to the United States," reports the NYT. "In some countries that have more advanced screening equipment, travelers will also be required to pass through so-called whole-body scanners that can look beneath clothing for hidden explosives or weapons, or may be checked with a device that can find tiny traces of explosives." (Later this week, the Transportation Security Administration will announce the distribution of 150 full-body scanners to airports around the nation, five of which will land at Sea-Tac.) Meanwhile, mere hours after the Obama administration announced the indefinite intensified screening of travelers from Afghanistan, etc., the Newark Liberty International Airport was thrown into full-scale security freak-out after a civilian bystander alerted a TSA officer to the man he'd just seen slip unnoticed through a security checkpoint. After six hours of frantic investigation, canceled flights, and general chaos, the Newark airport resumed operation, with today's-and-beyond's news reports identifying the security breacher as a guy who entered the wrong way through a security checkpoint to give his girlfriend a good-bye kiss. Cheers for the continued accomplishments of security-maintaining civilian bystanders, jeers for a security system that relies so heavily on ordinary folks doing extraordinary things.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 5 After a decade spent swimming through the world's worst news reports, Last Days sometimes fears that we've lost our ability to be surprised by anything ever again. But then along comes a story like today's, and our surprise hymen is popped anew. So thank you, Jared Walter, the 22-year-old man in Milwaukie, Oregon, accused of a variety of beguiling crimes against hair. Details come from Milwaukie's KATU News, which reports Walter yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of cutting the hair of unsuspecting women as they rode the bus. In addition to guerrilla hair-cutting, Walter is accused of squirting Super Glue into a female bus rider's hair and is a person of interest in two unrelated break-ins, one of which involves a woman who believes Walter entered her apartment in the middle of the night and coated her hair and pillow with some sort of oil while she and her fiancé slept. "Waking up and knowing that someone had been in your house and over you is about the scariest thing you can imagine," said the woman to KATU, adding that the intruder stole her purse and the substance permanently stained her pillow. Still uncharged in relation to the break-ins, Walter currently stands charged with one count of interfering with public transportation and two counts of third-degree robbery (of hair).
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6 In much better news, the week continues with official Last Days recognition of Amanda Simpson, the military- technology professional who was recently named senior technical adviser in the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, thus becoming one of America's first transgender presidential appointees. "Being the first sucks," said the refreshingly tell-it-like-it-is Simpson to ABC News. "I'd rather not be the first but someone has to be first, or among the first... I've broken barriers at lots of other places and I always win people over with who I am and what I can do." As for the inevitable criticisms that Simpson is nothing but a trans token: "This was not an appointment because they have to fill a transgender spot," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "This is a real, serious technical policy position and the job matches her résumé. Her being transgender had nothing to do with getting that job." Congratulations to Ms. Simpson and the Commerce Department.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 7 In stupider news: Today a South Carolina man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing meat. Details come from the Associated Press, which reports that 51-year-old Mark Zachary received the maximum sentence after jurors found him guilty yesterday of shoplifting $80 worth of New York strip steak from a grocery store. "Prosecutors said the sentence was justified because the Aug. 26 theft... was his ninth offense," reports the AP. "Authorities said when a store manager approached Zachary about the missing New York strip and the big bulk under his shirt, he fled, right into the arms of an off-duty police officer." In his defense, Zachary testified he was "massaging" the meat, not stealing it. Added bonus: During opening arguments, Assistant Solicitor Glenn Justis asked jurors, "Where's the beef?"
FRIDAY, JANUARY 8 Nothing happened today, unless you count the firing of Jim Mora after just one (ridiculously awful) season coaching the Seattle Seahawks. By the end of the weekend, USC's Pete Carroll will be confirmed as Mora's successor.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 9 The week continues at Seattle Center's KeyArena, where tonight Last Days had the good fortune to pay a whole bunch of money to see Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family Starring Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry's play-shaped tornado of music, melodrama, and a man in a dress that nearly singed our face with delight. Among the topics addressed by Madea's Big Happy Family: cancer, crack, "babymama drama," rape, incest, the sexual appetites of the elderly, how to properly choke a female into submission, and the healing power of Jesus. Left unaddressed: the fact that, in the world of classic theater, the title Madea's Big Happy Family is the most hilarious thing in the world.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 10 The week ends horribly in Hong Kong, where today police announced the arrest of a suspect in the acid attack that injured 30 people (including a number of children) last night at a popular outdoor market. As CNN reports, police believe the attacker hurled two bottles of corrosive acid from a rooftop onto shoppers at the tourist-packed Temple Street. As Sky News reports, such acid attacks have scarred roughly 100 people in Hong Kong over the past year. And as CNN will reveal tomorrow, today's arrestee will be ruled out as a suspect, leaving the actual acid thrower still at large.
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