MONDAY, JUNE 26 This week of grounded space shuttles, self-satisfied judges, and ironic criminal switcheroos kicks off today with some world-historic good news, courtesy of two generous gazillionaires. Specifically, Warren Buffett, the 75-year-old wealth-amassing investment titan, and Bill Gates, the 51-year-old Microsoft cofounder and philanthropic genius, who today held a "town-hall" style meeting at the New York Public Library to announce Buffett's donation of $31 billion in stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—a gift that effectively doubles the endowment of what is already the world's largest philanthropic organization. If the idea of the World's Second Richest Man™ leaving his fortune to the World's Richest Man™ strikes you as unfair, get over it. Thanks to Buffett's humongous gift, the Gates Foundation will now dispense a whopping $1.5 billion a year, significantly furthering the Foundation's pragmatic dreams of saving the world. "We're going to deepen and accelerate our commitments," said Bill Gates at a post-library press conference, specifying the Foundation's commitments as finding a vaccine for AIDS, developing cures for the top 20 infectious diseases in the world, and ensuring a decent education for every American, among a bevy of humbler goals (microcredit loans for small-business owners, alternative career training for sex workers). Three cheers for Buffett, and congratulations to the Gateses, who continue to live the most ambitiously virtuous lives of filthy richness in modern history.
TUESDAY, JUNE 27 Speaking of promising progress: Today five of the nation's leading online service providers banded together to improve the fight against child pornography. Details come from the Associated Press, which reports that AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, Earthlink, and United Online Inc. (the company behind NetZero and Juno) have pledged a combined $1 million for the creation of a vast child-pornography database, in which all existing kiddie-porn images will be collected and stamped with a "unique mathematical signature," for which the participating companies would scan users' images for matches. AOL reportedly plans to add the kiddie-porn scan to its existing virus scan of e-mail attachments; should the scan detect a forbidden image, AOL would share the image and related info with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. According to ISP eggheads, the database still faces significant hurdles, such as the possibility that cropping a recorded image might change its signature and thus thwart attempts at detection. Still, we put a man on the moon, and surely American ingenuity can find a way to irreparably tag a freakin' kiddie-porn JPEG. Good luck to the brave database builders, who will spend the next several seasons scouring the web for the world's most upsetting images this side of Haditha.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28 Speaking of creepy web doings: Today brings yet another allegation of criminal predation on MySpace—only this one comes with a kicky gender swap and spicy generational twist! The setting: Jacksonville, Florida, where two weeks ago an adult male of indeterminate age began chatting online with what he believed to be a young, but not underage, woman. According to San Antonio, Texas's WOAI News, this young-but-not-underage woman identified herself on her MySpace page as an 18-year-old named Natalia, posting the requisite "sexy photos" alongside the blurb "just lookin' for something fun." Intrigued by the idea of "something fun" with Natalia, the man of indeterminate age made a date to meet her at her apartment, but when he arrived, he found not a fun-loving female horndog of legal age but a pair of gun-toting postadolescent girls, aged 14 and 15, who allegedly held a gun to the man's head and ordered him to empty his pockets. Having fortuitously forgotten his wallet, the unrobbed man was soon sent away unharmed, after which he called the police, who promptly found the girls with another male suspect and two loaded handguns. Florida's most precocious alleged felons are now awaiting trial for armed robbery and carrying a concealed firearm.
THURSDAY, JUNE 29 Speaking of sex-scented criminal allegations: Today brings a close to the creeptastic saga of Donald D. Thompson, the Oklahoma judge on trial this week for allegedly using a penis pump while presiding over criminal cases. Details come from the Associated Press, which characterizes the former Judge Thompson's trial as a veritable symphony of tittering and squirming, with jurors made to watch both a defense attorney and a prosecutor pantomime masturbation, while the judge's alleged penis pump remained on display before the jury box for hours at a time. But the crème de la creep came from Thompson's former court reporter Lisa Foster, who reportedly wiped away tears while describing how she traced the courtroom's unfamiliar whooshing sound directly to her boss's lap. "I was really shocked and I was kind of scared because it was so bizarre," said Foster, who testified that between 2001 and 2003 she saw Judge Thompson expose himself at least 15 times, including once when he allegedly shaved his scrotum on the bench. Foster also spoke of the horror she experienced during a trial in 2002, when the emotional testimony of a murdered toddler's grandfather was punctuated by the aforementioned whooshing sound. "[The grandfather] was getting real teary-eyed, and the judge was up there pumping on that pump," said Foster on the stand. "It was sickening." Twisting the icky knife: Court reporter's tapes from three murder trials in 2002 and 2003, played for jurors and reportedly capturing several more instances of emotional witness testimony underscored by that "rhythmic, high-pitched whoosh of air." Taking the stand in his own defense, Thompson admitted to possessing the pump and to storing it under his desk in the courtroom, but dismissed the wang-enhancement tool as a "gag gift" that he never once used and "should have thrown away." The jury, however, wasn't buying it, and today the least dignified trial in the history of the U.S. judicial system came to a close, as 59-year-old Thompson was convicted of four counts of indecent exposure, for which he was sentenced to one year in prison, fined $40,000, and required to register as a sex offender.
FRIDAY, JUNE 30 Nothing happened today, unless you count the Vatican's vow to excommunicate all scientists who carry out embryonic stem cell research, and all politicians who pass laws permitting the practice. "Destroying human embryos is equivalent to an abortion," said Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family. "It is the same thing."
SATURDAY, JULY 1 Nothing happened today, including the launch of the space shuttle Discovery, whose embattled blastoff was postponed due to bad weather.
SUNDAY, JULY 2 Nothing happened today.
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