MONDAY, JULY 3 This week of presidential celebration, foiled terror plots, and horribly tortured breasts kicks off with Nazis, Nazis, and more Nazis. The first batch comes from Washington State's own Olympia, where today a teensy cadre of National Socialists (the Associated Press put the number at "about 12") stood on the Capitol steps to hoist swastika flags and rail against gays, Jews, nonwhites, and Communists over a PA system. Hyped as a gathering of white supremacists from "several Western states," the shrimpy rally's primary success was in mobilizing protestors, as hundreds of demonstrators showed up to shout down the vastly outnumbered Nazis. Among the counterprotestors: At least six anti-Nazi clowns and one Robert Guerrero, a Tacoma man who appeared at the rally in a traditional Tlingit cedar headband to represent indigenous people. "These folks need to know that they are immigrants," said Guerrero to the AP, gesturing toward the neo-Nazis. "They want to get rid of immigrants? Well, go ahead."
•• In far more disturbing Nazi news: Tomorrow in Pretzien, Germany, a "traditional gala" will be disrupted by nearly 100 German neo-Nazis, who'll burn an American flag and sing banned Nazi songs before ostentatiously burning a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, while on Friday, the Associated Foreign Press will report on the relaxed wartime recruiting maneuvers that are allowing hordes of neo-Nazis into the U.S. military. "Neo-Nazi groups and other extremists are joining the military in large numbers so they can get the best training in the world on weapons, combat tactics, and explosives," said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks domestic extremist groups. "We should consider this a major security threat, because these people are motivated by an ideology that calls for race war and revolution. Any one of them could turn out to be the next Timothy McVeigh."
TUESDAY, JULY 4 The week continues with Independence Day, the annual U.S. holiday commemorating the nation's emancipation from British rule, celebrated this year with the blessedly tragedy-free liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery. Following a pair of postponements due to inclement weather, today's Cape Canaveral blastoff commences a critical mission for NASA, for whom Discovery's 12 days of futzing with the half-built, $100-billion space station is considered vital to the project's completion before the shuttle program's end in 2010. But the real success of the mission will be measured 12 days from now, when Discovery reenters the Earth's atmosphere. As exploding-shuttle buffs will recall, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it returned to Earth on February 1, 2003, thanks to a problematic fuel tank, killing all seven astronauts aboard. Prior to the launch of Discovery, several key NASA officials pushed to delay the mission until the shuttle's fuel tank underwent additional repairs. Despite the warnings, NASA sent Discovery on its way, with the AP reporting on the six pieces of foam insulation found to have fallen off Discovery's "troublesome external fuel tank" minutes after liftoff. Still—so far, so good. Stay tuned.
•• Speaking of potential horror in American skies: Today, North Korea, the petulant middle sister in the Axis of Evil, commenced test firings of seven long-range missiles, including the Taepodong-2, which the AP reports "is intended to carry nuclear warheads to U.S. territory." Lucky for us, each of the launches failed. Unlucky for all, the U.S. must now consider preemptive action against North Korea, before the country learns how to correct its missile-launching mistakes. Again, stay tuned.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 5 In a miraculous bout of poor health and good timing, today Kenneth Lay—the freshly convicted Enron founder due to spend the next couple decades in prison for one of the biggest business frauds in U.S. history—dropped dead of a heart attack. He was 64.
THURSDAY, JULY 6 Speaking of weasels whose funerals Last Days anticipates: Today President George W. Bush turned 60.
FRIDAY, JULY 7 In much better news: Today the perennially embattled FBI enjoyed a few moments of glory, thanks to news reports on the would-be terrorist plot to attack New York City's transportation system, which was foiled by a group of U.S. and Lebanese intelligence agents. According to CNN, U.S. agents learned of the proposed plot by patrolling internet chatrooms, where agents reportedly found evidence of early-stage planning to blow up tunnels in lower Manhattan. The New York Daily News identified the threatened tunnel as the Holland Tunnel, and specified the terrorists' goal of flooding lower Manhattan's financial district, à la New Orleans after Katrina. Today, Lebanese officials confirmed the arrest in Beirut of a man suspected of planning the would-be attack, and U.S. officials confirmed the continuing search for other suspects in the plot. Three cheers for the FBI! (And Lebanese officials!)
SATURDAY, JULY 8 The week continues with the stunningly awful story that's been burned into the brains and bosoms of all who've encountered it, chronicling the "traditional West African practice" of breast ironing. For those out of the hideous news loop, breast ironing involves the use of hard, hot objects (typically stones placed in boiling water) to stunt breast growth in girls, via the rubbing of the aforementioned hard, hot objects across the bare chests of prepubescent females. Devised as a protection against sexual abuse (as girls with scarred, stunted breasts are far less appealing to molesters), breast ironing is apparently freakishly widespread in Cameroon, where Reuters reports one in four teenagers has been subjected to the traumatic process, typically at the hands of relatives worried that the onset of puberty could invite sexual harassment. Never mind that breast ironing carries the "asking for it" argument to a truly horrific end; beyond conceptual offenses, the practice has a slew of horribly tangible side effects, including severe pain, abscesses, infections, breast cancer, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts. So thank God for the German development agency GTZ, which sponsored the eye-opening survey that fueled today's news reports, and which is waging a campaign "to respect the physical integrity of young girls." As GTZ representative Flavien Ndonko told Reuters, "If nothing was done today, tomorrow the very parents may even resolve to slice off the nose, the mouth, or any other part of the girl which they think is making her attractive to men."
SUNDAY, JULY 9 Nothing happened today, unless you count the finale of the World Cup, wherein Italy beat France, or something. Hurrah!
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