Ripples of horror and confusion spread like wildfire through fan websites today when the Backstreet Boys revealed on MTV's Total Request Live that member A.J. McLean has checked himself into rehab for "clinical depression, anxiety and excessive consumption of alcohol." A.J., who is referred to by publicists as the "tattooed bad boy" of the group, and by everyone else as the "follicly challenged grampy," was apparently distraught over the death of his grandmother and began hitting the sauce like a wino locked in a MD 20/20 factory. Band members noticed their "bro" had a problem early on: "We had a big powwow," says BSB Kevin "Hook Nose" Richardson, "And we were like, bro, we don't like what we're seeing out of you, we think you have a problem." Hook Nose was also quick to point out that A.J.'s problem didn't start with the death of his grandmother. "He has internal demons he's had to deal with that happened before this. He never had a father figure in his life," said the obviously well-versed in pop psychology Richardson, while stroking his long, hooked nose. Until A.J. graduates from rehab in thirty days (yeah, right!) fans are encouraged to keep buying the group's albums, posters, dandruff shampoo, and internal demons (on sale now on E-bay!).

Actor Harrison Ford made great strides today in catching up to Tom "I'm Not Gay" Cruise in the arena of heroic rescues. After a Utah Boy Scout wandered away from his troop and became lost in the Yellowstone National Park wilderness yesterday, Ford and his trusty Bell 407 helicopter were called in to assist the search and rescue team. After a night of fruitless searching, Ford spotted the wet and shivering scout, 13-year-old Cody Clawson, at 8:30 am this morning. Swooping down, Ford picked him up and attempted to engage the boy in movie-style quips. "Boy, you sure must have earned a merit badge for this one," Ford said, to which the boy replied, "I already earned this badge last summer." Publicists were noted to be severely disappointed in the lad's response, and promised to issue a better one later today.

In a story that could only come from Gresham, a woman who had lost custody of her 20-month-old baby allegedly strangled her with a shoestring in a state park. The child had been in the state's custody after it had been deemed the mother posed a threat to the baby's safety--however, since state law allows visits while under supervision, the mother was allowed to see her daughter for a brief period at Main City Park. Though it's still unclear exactly how it happened, the mother was able to sneak away from the social worker and into the woods, where police say, the child was strangled with a shoestring. The woman then interrupted a nearby funeral with her cries of "I've killed my baby. I wanted her out of pain." Resuscitation attempts by the funeral director and an off-duty sheriff's director were unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for Services to Children and Families promised to "review the incident," and the mother was arrested on accusations of aggravated murder.

Another Benicio Del Toro update! When we last left our hometown hunk, he was under the scalpel after severely injuring his wrist and forearm in an accident while filming The Hunted with the not-as-attractive Tommy Lee Jones. Happily, the surgery was a glorious success, and the cast-wearing Benny is spending some of his recuperative time in Cuba! For reasons that are at the very least confusing, Benny and director Steven Soderbergh are there presenting free screenings of their film Traffic. Maybe they're commies we're sure we don't know. Nevertheless, the Cuban press had kind words for the film as well as snippy comments for the rest of American filmmakers. According to today's communist party paper Granma, "It is stimulating to see there are certain intelligent people in the U.S. cinema world capable of escaping the obstacles and many temptations of mass commercial production, to make films like Traffic." Hey! Didn't those cigar-chompin' pinkos see Tomb Raider?

We're sure that all of you, like us, have been enthusiastically following the saga of the Portland Water Bureau, as reported breathlessly by The Oregonian. This epic has everything: the antihero (City Commissioner Erik Sten), the seemingly insurmountable obstacle (the most deeply flawed computer system since HAL 9000), and moments of touching human drama (the resignation of Designated Fall Guy Michael Rosenberger). Now, the roman a clef! Just as the delayed water bills have been mailed out to the city's unsuspecting populace, the Water Bureau phone lines have gone down!! GOOD GOD, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?? What further chaos could be in store? And is a little water worth all this hullabaloo?

According to The Bend Bulletin, the Ford Motor Co. wants to send SUV drivers to SUV school, in the hopes of limiting some of those nasty accidents folks keep whining about. We think this is a great idea! In fact, we even wrote away for the Ford SUV School Handbook. Here's some of what you can expect to learn!
• How to change a blown Firestone tire
• How to look imperious behind the wheel
• How to crush Suzuki Swifts flat without leaving the tiniest scratch on your bumper
• How to squeeze into a "compacts only" space
• Vanity plates--how to think of them, how to read them
• How to protect your vehicle from rogue environmentalists
• What to do if your vehicle explodes
• Where to find the windshield wipers (to the left of the panic button)
• Gas is your friend--How to pump like a pro

We've been warning all you spendthrift Patties out there about it for months, but now it's official: According to The New York Times, Belt Tightening Is A Threat To The Economy. Didn't we TELL YOU? Weren't you LISTENING? Now the economy is going to crash and we will all be POOR and unable to afford the basics, like brow waxing and double mochas. We will all be hairy and tired. And it will be YOUR FAULT. We implore you, one last time, if you care at all about your country, buy something today! Anything. But especially something expensive. Pay only your minimum balance on your credit card. Eat out. Buy a car. Invest unwisely. Buy an ad, say, in the Portland Mercury. Act fast. The brows you wax may be your own. (And to be frank, we think they need it.)