The two weeks in review

Worst present for the beef industry: Just as Americans are sitting down to their Christmas roasts, the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy mad cow disease is reported from an infected Holstein in Washington state.

More than you ever wanted to know about the beef industry: Downed cows, protein pellets, and newborn calves ripped from their mothers' teats are just a few details Americans are learning about how that rib-eye ends up in the meat case.

Longest journey home: By air, when flights to the United States from London, Paris, and Mexico City are canceled because of possible terrorist threats.

Best press for NASA after last year's Columbia tragedy: The "flawless" landing of the Spirit rover on Mars January 3, and the immediate transmission of images from the red planet.

Worst quake (international): A 6.7 tremblor December 26 levels almost all of the ancient city of Bam in Iran, killing 30,000 and leaving 40,000 homeless.

Worst quake (domestic): Two die when a 6.5 earthquake shakes Paso Robles in central California, December 22.

Best reason to call Chandler, Franklin & O'Bryan for a safe ride home: A first offense for drunk driving can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 in legal and increased insurance fees, according to Charlottesville criminal justice planner Thomas von Hemert.

Most dubious trend: Shortly after the New Year rolls in, James Ryan Cure, 22, is charged in a stabbing, making him the second UVA student jailed in a knifing. He joins Andrew Alston, who is charged in the November 8 death of firefighter Walker Sisk.

Best second acts: Unsuccessful school board candidate Denny King and unsuccessful board of supervisors candidate Kevin Fletcher are now trying to get appointed to the at-large seat on the Albemarle Planning Commission.

Best controversy since hanging chads: City Council considers moving elections from May to November.

Least surprising outcome of last year's faux  hate crime: Frank Brown and Latrone M. Jones file civil lawsuits totaling $8.5 million against former deputy Stephen R. Shifflett, who claimed he'd been shot by a black man on March 13, a claim county police later call "unfounded" after police detain the two men, the Progress reports.

Oldest lawsuit: The Dixie Caverns landfill case lasts 13 years before the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors settles with General Electric and VFP, Inc., in the $13-million, Superfund-site cleanup suit.

Most improved unemployment stats: Virginia's 3.3 percent unemployment for November is the lowest it's been for 30 months, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. Nationally, unemployment stands at 5.6 percent; in Charlottesville, it falls to 2.6 percent.

Worst unemployment stats: Danville drops from 7.4 percent to a still-hurtin' 7 percent unemployment, and Henry County has the highest jobless rate in the state at 13.8 percent.

Best news for unemployed PhDs: UVA plans to add 571 jobs, primarily research positions, by 2006, Kate Andrews reports in the Progress.

Briefest marriage: From January 3 to January 5, the length of time Britney Spears was married to Jason Alan Alexander before the Las Vegas nuptials were annulled.

Oddest inspiration for a wedding: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which Alexander tells Inside Edition the couple watched before saying "I do." He also claims they weren't drunk before tying the knot at 5am at the Little White Wedding Chapel.

Best indication reality TV really, really has hit rock bottom: NBC debuts mogul Donald Trump in The Apprentice January 8. Trump, dubbed the "short-fingered vulgarian" by Spy magazine in the '80s, will choose among MBAs and street hustlers vying to be his assistant.