MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12
When it comes to unreliable hitmen, nobody beats Beaverton! A Beaverton resident pleaded guilty today after a hired hitman turned the tables and ratted him out. Vynn C. Berg hired William C. Pumphrey to "seriously injure" the owner of Greg's Car Corner--apparently because the car dealer wasn't quick enough in paying back a $400,000 business loan. As part of their agreement, the car dealer had also made Berg the beneficiary of his $500,000 life insurance policy. Apparently Berg figured he'd get his money sooner if he just bumped the guy off. However, trouble arose when Berg hired Pumphrey to do the dirty work. After giving the hitman a gun and pointing him in the direction of the car lot, Pumphrey violated several rules of the hitman code by walking directly into a police station and telling them everything he knew. But there's more! After Pumphrey high-tails it out of town (surprise!), ingenious lawyers on both sides cut a deal where the loan shark and the car dealer reach an out-of-court settlement allowing Berg to skip out of court with a six-month work-release program and five years probation. What did this mysterious settlement entail? Well, no one's talking, but if we had to guess, the deal might say something like "the defendant forgets about the 400,000 smackers, and promises to stop trying to kill the plaintiff." See? Everyone's happy!!

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13
More news from the sordid world of CRIME. According to The Oregonian, the Portland Police Bureau is using a new method in their war against the escort services--actually paying private citizens to have sex with prostitutes. Calling them "informants," these "Huggy Bears of the Boudoir" are paid $50 for four hours of "undercover work" in which they solicit, pay, and videotape a sexual act, which they will later show and describe in explicit detail for a jury. Now, we know what many of you are thinking: "Whoopee! Where do I sign up?" However, before forming a long line down at Chief Kroeker's office, please remember that while government-sanctioned sex with a prostitute may sound like a dream career, there are a few things one should know: 1) There are no health benefits or 401 K plans; 2) Just because you're allowed to commit one illegal act, does not mean you can also steal police department office supplies; and 3) No, you do not get to keep the videotapes. Is that understood? OK, fill out your application, don't forget your references, and most importantly, have fun!

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14
Apparently, not everyone can be as in love as One Day and our husband Kip. Today was Valentine's Day, and while the ever-romantic Kip plied us with flowers, bon-bons, and cooed words of amore into our awaiting ears, Sean "Puffy" Combs had his heart ripped from his chest and pummeled by the vivacious Jennifer "J.Lo" Lopez. Naturally, the question on everyone's lips (except for One Day who had hers firmly planted on those of her delicious hubby) was "How could a love so right, go so, so wrong?" Here are two outstanding theories: Not only is Puffy facing up to 15 years in the slammer for his role in a December 1999 club shooting, but he is also accused of trying to get his driver to take the rap by giving him $50,000 and (get this, girls!) the ring Jennifer gave him as a gift! Fellas, this is definitely a "J.Lo no-no." And secondly, after J.Lo gave him the heave-ho, Puff-Daddy tried to woo her back by sending R&B crooner Luther Vandross and a full orchestra to serenade her. Luther Vandross? Please, Puffy. If you want to win the heart of a woman, take a tip from my beloved Kip: Send flowers, not a corpse.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Today the state of Virginia cleared its throat, and officially apologized for sterilizing 7,450 people in the name of purifying the white race. Following a law put on the books back in 1924, the state used sterilization to weed out what they believed to be genetic defects such as mental illness, retardation, epilepsy, criminal behavior, alcoholism, and immorality. This dirty business of tying tubes and slashing testes remained until the law was overturned in 1979. Though the apology was made public today, there is still no word on whether they will keep the license plate slogan, "Virginia is for Lovers."

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Today we were at the gym toning up our firm little quads when a special report came on three of the four televisions (the fourth was showing an episode of Cops). We watched as best we could while still keeping an eye on our reflection in the wall of mirrors, as a Pentagon official appeared on screen behind a podium. He was all grimaces and stern gazes. Occasionally a graphic of Iraq also appeared. We couldn't tell what the Pentagon official was saying, as the TVs had no sound, and while the episode of Cops was closed-captioned, not one bothered to switch on the closed captioning on the other three televisions. We would have asked someone to do so, but we didn't want to lose momentum on the leg extension resistance machine. Besides, no one seemed all that interested. In fact, as far as we could tell, the only people watching TV were watching Cops. A few minutes later the TVs returned to their regularly scheduled daytime soaps. Can anyone tell us what happened? We haven't heard a peep about it since.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17
Today The New York Times reported that the University of California is considering ending the use of SAT scores in its admissions process. Apparently someone just now caught on to the fact that a four-hour scantron test can't possibly fully reflect the full range of human potential. (Take it from us--filling in all the "b's" doesn't work either.) Of course there are those who oppose the idea, including Princeton Review, makers of the SAT study guides, the nation's paper manufacturers, and Mensa. If the UC system goes through with dropping the SAT requirement, the 200 dollars students would have spent on tests and study guides would be folded into the application fee. The UC system is also rumored to be considering nixing the application essay and high school diploma requirement. When asked for a comment, the East Coast just rolled its eyes.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18
Today The Oregonian reported a troubling piece of Pulitzer-worthy journalism: Teenagers drink. And not just Mountain Dew and Sobe. They're drinking ALCOHOL. "Drinking until you pass out is considered a party ritual for some," screamed one Oregonian headline. What will the Big O uncover next, that teens give hand jobs? Today's article did point out several troubling trends. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse survey, 80% of 12th graders say they've tried alcohol. The other 20%, according to the survey, were freakish trouble mongers with antisocial tendencies. Interestingly, they were the same group who scored highest on their SATs. Though far be it for us to draw any conclusion from this correlation.

ann@portlandmercury.com