MONDAY, APRIL 30 The week began with the thrilling announcement that the meat monolith McDonald's will open its first U.S.-based McCafe in Chicago, the Associated Press reported. The concept, which has met with success abroad, will offer high-end coffee and desserts served with stainless steel silverware on fine china in a cafe designed to look like a French bistro. Presumably market research led them to reject their first name choice: McStarbuck's.

· · Also today, San Francisco cheered us up considerably by voting to become the first city in the country to finance sex changes for municipal employees, Reuters reported. Officials have estimated that in the first year as many as 35 city workers might take advantage of the new benefit. Note to Seattle legislators: Last Days would much rather see our tax dollars build a pretty lady than a dumb stadium.

TUESDAY, MAY 1 Back in our own less than enlightened state, a bill aimed at curtailing bullying and harassment in schools stalled out today after conservatives complained that it censored their right to condemn homosexuality, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. The measure would have required school districts to set up policies against bullying, and train employees and volunteers in the prevention of harassment. Heaven forbid this legislation should lead to the trampling of a Christian kid's First Amendment right to yell "faggot" at members of the drama club.

· · Also today, at the miserable hour of 4 am, seven cars of a mile-long Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train leapt off the tracks just outside Worcester, Massachusetts. Miraculously, no injuries were reported and 48 unaffected train cars were reconfigured to carry 230 people and 40 animals (including elephants and tigers) to their destination in Providence, Rhode Island, where the circus is scheduled to open on Wednesday. Presumably, show people don't suffer from crippling post-train-accident-post-traumatic-stress disorder, like some columnists we know.

· · Also today, archaeologists say they have discovered the first slave dwelling ever found in New York City, in a 300-year-old former farmhouse, the Associated Press reported. Archaeologists H. Arthur Bankoff, Christopher Ricciardi, and Alyssa Loorya stumbled on the secret rooms in a wooden house in Brooklyn. "It would have been an inhospitable place to live--close and dark without natural light or fresh air," write the archaeologists in the May/June issue of Archaeology magazine. Just goes to show that some things about the New York housing situation never change.

· · Also today, 62-year-old Thomas Blanton Jr., a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, was found guilty of first-degree murder for killing four black girls in the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama church, Reuters reported. "I guess the good Lord will settle sentence on Judgement Day," Blanton said before being whisked out of court in handcuffs. His Lord may one day roast his cracker ass in a lake of fire, but until then he will spend the rest of his life in prison experiencing a completely different kind of Hell.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 2 What fresh new Hell is this? The Mormon church, prodded to honor a 1995 agreement to stop trying to save deceased Jews from a fiery afterlife with "proxy baptisms," has agreed to remove the names of more than 200 Jewish people from church records, the Associated Press reported. These baptisms for the dead are among the rites performed in temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to give those in the great beyond a chance to join the faith. Among those lucky, lucky Jews to be so rescued are Sigmund Freud; David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel; and Holocaust victim Anne Frank. Personally, Last Days cannot imagine a Hell worse than waking up and finding ourselves a Mormon.

· · Also today, an embarrassed Defense Department reversed an order that mistakenly suspended American military ties with China, Reuters reported. The Pentagon had "misinterpreted" Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's intention to subject modest bilateral ties such as ship visits and military personnel exchanges with Beijing to a case-by-case review. This new absurdity doubtlessly dropped already chilly U.S.-Sino relations another couple of degrees.

THURSDAY, MAY 3 Today, Japan deported the man believed to be the eldest son and heir apparent of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to China on Friday after he was caught trying to enter the country on a false passport, Reuters reported. "I am Kim Jong-nam," a Kyodo news agency had quoted the man as saying. "I wanted to go to Disneyland." Another communist prince converted by the crown jewel in capitalism's cartoon crown!

FRIDAY, MAY 4 McDonald's, capitalism's other successful virus--we mean export--returns to the news with the Associated Press report that Hindus vandalized a McDonald's in a Bombay suburb to protest against the alleged use of beef flavoring in the chain's French fries in the United States.

The protests were sparked by a lawsuit (filed in our own King County Superior Court!) that accuses McDonald's of using beef fat in the preparation of French fries more than a decade after it said it would cook its fries in vegetable oil. Demonstrators and neophyte performance artists surrounded another McDonald's store, shouting slogans and smearing cow dung on Ronald McDonald. Though adamant that its Indian restaurants are 100-percent sacred-cow free, the fast-food chain released a statement saying it has never claimed the fries it sells in the United States are vegetarian.

SATURDAY, MAY 5 You don't have to love sports to enjoy the slapstick humor that 21-year-old Husky football star Jerramy Stevens continues to provide his fans. Stevens, who last season played under a teensy little cloud of suspicion because of an allegation that he drugged and raped a 19-year-old girl, was arrested for allegedly smashing his pickup into a Northgate retirement home and fleeing the scene, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Shortly after 1 am on Friday night, his truck ripped a hole in the wall and shattered a window in a bedroom where a 92-year-old woman was sleeping. A witness told police Stevens fell twice while trying to free the pickup, eventually using books for leverage under its tires. Richard Stephens, a 72-year-old Merrill Gardens resident, said, "I thought he was injured at first, then I thought he was drunk." Stevens, who was once charged with beating a man with a baseball bat, will no doubt learn a lesson from Husky football coach Rick Neuheisel, who released a statement saying he would soon call a team meeting "to discuss the importance of behavior, making good decisions, and citizenship."

SUNDAY, MAY 6 Words cannot express our sorrow and sympathy for the friends and family of a 14-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a freight train late last night. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the girl was walking on the tracks with another girl and two boys, all 14 years old, when two trains approached from opposite directions, sounding their horns. But the girl apparently was aware only of the westbound train in front of her and not of the eastbound train coming from behind and was knocked into a ditch next to the tracks. Fire Department paramedics rushed the girl to Harborview Medical Center, where she died. Need we tell you that this tragedy occurred in the exact spot north of Golden Gardens where just last week Last Days and our little dog Franny nearly met an identical fate? Please stay off those lethal tracks!