MONDAY, JULY 19 This week of fatal tunnels, horny clergymen, and conscience-free internet bullies given ridiculous amounts of power by presidential administrations that should fucking know better kicks off today in India, where early this morning a train heading into a station north of Calcutta sped past numerous stop signals and smashed into another train, killing 63 people and injuring scores more. "The force of the crash was so intense that the roof of one car was thrust onto an overpass above the tracks," reports the Associated Press, adding that the instigating train was traveling three times faster than it should have been and that its driver ignored numerous communication attempts and orders to stop before the fatal crash.
••In much better news: Today also brought news of another potential breakthrough in the fight against HIV—a vaginal gel that's proved capable of blocking the AIDS virus and significantly reducing a woman's risk of HIV infection. Details come from a study published online today in the journal Science and disseminated by the Associated Press. "The study tested the gel in 889 heterosexual women in and near Durban, South Africa," reports the AP. "Researchers had no information on the women's partners, but the women were heterosexual and, in general, not in a high-risk group, such as prostitutes. Half of the women were given the microbicide and the others, a dummy gel. Women were told to use it 12 hours before sex and as soon as possible within 12 hours afterward. At the study's end, there were 38 HIV infections among the microbicide group versus 60 in the others... Scientists called it a breakthrough in the long quest for a tool to help women whose partners won't use condoms." The next step: improving the gel's efficacy—perhaps with the help of other drugs—to the 80 percent necessary for licensing in the U.S.
TUESDAY, JULY 20 The week continues with what history will remember as the Shirley Sherrod Fiasco, instigated by the aforementioned conscience-free internet bully given a ridiculous amount of power by a presidential administration that should fucking know better: Andrew Breitbart, the sub-Drudge conservative blogger who yesterday posted video of the Department of Agriculture's Shirley Sherrod giving a seemingly racist speech. Within 12 hours, Sherrod was forced to resign her position with the Obama administration, and within 24 hours, the allegedly racist speech was revealed to be the creation of Breitbart (and/or his video suppliers), who strategically edited the clip to create the appearance of racism. Tomorrow, everyone in the world will apologize profusely to Sherrod, including the NAACP, the secretary of agriculture, and President Obama, all of whom believed the worst about Sherrod based on the doctored evidence of a sociopath. Offered a new position with the Department of Agriculture, Sherrod is "considering it," along with possible legal action against Breitbart, who is in no way the ultimate villain of this saga. Breitbart was just doing what he always does—being an inflammatory prick—and allegedly sentient politicians should know better than to automatically believe what he says. As Wikipedia put it, "One Huffington Post commentator likened Sherrod to Rosa Parks. MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan also likened Sherrod to Rosa Parks, commenting... that the White House and the NAACP 'threw Rosa Parks under the bus.'" It is a sad day when Pat Buchanan is right.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 21 Today brings not one but two stories of Americans under attack by nature. Story #1 comes from Wyoming, where this afternoon a group of 16 hikers was struck by lightning during an electrical storm in Grand Teton National Park. Details come from western Wyoming's Local News 8, which reports that all 16 hikers were individually struck—some more than once, with the jolts throwing them sideways. Hospitalized with various degrees of lightning burns, each of the hikers will be listed in stable condition by tonight.
••Meanwhile at New Hampshire's Wallis Sands State Park, 150 people were stung by a jellyfish—a big, dead lion's mane jellyfish, whose death didn't stop it from "turn[ing] the tranquil beach into a frenzied sea of screaming children and aching adults with red, sore feet and legs," as the New York Times reports. Also: "It was not the blob of dead jellyfish, but rather pieces of its stinging tentacles that stung the waders," with the free-floating multitude of invisible stinging bits wreaking havoc along the beach.
"You couldn't see it in the water coming at you," said mom-of-two-stung-kids Kim Raiti to the NYT. "You couldn't see anything you would know to avoid... Everyone was getting stung at the same time. Kids were crying. It was like a scene from a movie."
THURSDAY, JULY 22 Today—more than a year after he confirmed his homosexuality on-air to Rachel Maddow—Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran and devoted opposer of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy—was honorably discharged from the National Guard for refusing to pretend he isn't gay. For what it's worth, in previous years, former lieutenant Choi would've been dishonorably discharged. We've come a long way, baby. (Seriously. Now keep going.)
FRIDAY, JULY 23 We continue with this week's Sex Scandal Rocking the Catholic Church™, and lucky for us, it's a doozy. Details come from the Daily Mail, which was given a sneak peek at the forthcoming issue of Italy's Panorama magazine, featuring a hidden-camera exposé on the rambunctious gay sex lives of priests. "The article describes how the reporter was assisted by a gay 'accomplice' as they 'gate-crashed the wild nights of a number of priests in Rome who live a surprising double-life,'" reports the Daily Mail, accompanying the item with a hidden-camera photo of a priest standing before the "gay accomplice" in his priestly collar and no pants. "Panorama said that one priest, named as Carlo, willingly put on his cassock to have sex with the reporter's gay accomplice." As of yet, the Vatican has no comment.
SATURDAY, JULY 24 Nothing happened today, unless you count the horrific tragedy that struck Germany's Love Parade, the annual techno music festival where today hundreds of would-be revelers crowded into a tunnel en route to the festival and became trapped in what would prove to be a fatal crush. Twenty people were killed, over 500 more were injured, and heartbroken organizers canceled the Love Parade forever. Condolences to all.
SUNDAY, JULY 25 Nothing happened today, unless you count a gloriously sunny final day of the Capitol Hill Block Party, featuring a ton of great bands, a bunch of long lines, an impressive number of Honey Buckets, and—praise the Lord—zero fatalities.
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