Quit: Steven Slater
In 2010, no one cheered the hearts of disgruntled workers everywhere more than Jet Blue flight attendant Slater, who left his job—and his aircraft—in spectacular fashion. In August, he told off an annoying passenger, grabbed two bottles of beer, released the emergency exit on his landed plane, and slid away to freedom. And into a world of trouble: in October, he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and was fined US$10,000. For the rest of us, though, it was worth it.
Evicted: the Niqab
After a pharmacist in a niqab—a face veil that reveals only the wearer’s eyes—refused to remove it during French-language class, the Quebec government announced plans to ban government agencies and public institutions from offering services to veiled women. Bill 94, when it becomes law, will effectively eject the niqab from Quebec’s public square in the name of gender equality and maintaining secular values in public services. Meanwhile, the imposing crucifix in the national assembly remains in place.
Moved on: Simon Cowell
The caustic Brit, who delivered some of reality TV’s more memorable (and contemptuous) dismissals, left American Idol, the show he turned into a money-spinner for Fox (and himself). Cowell will concentrate on other shows in his billion-dollar empire, while Idol seeks a replacement who can inspire as much fear and awe in contestants, and as much fascination—whether horrified or approving—among viewers.
Capped: Tony Hayward
He climbed to the top of oil giant BP as a reformer who stated, after a 2005 refinery explosion, that his company’s leadership “doesn’t listen sufficiently well.” But after the Deepwater Horizon spill, Hayward, 53, didn’t seem to have absorbed his own lessons. He told reporters he “wanted his life back,” refused to answer queries from congressmen, and attended a yacht race while one of the worst environmental catastrophes on record slowly unfolded. In July, two years after becoming CEO, Hayward—like 4.9 million barrels of oil—was all washed up.
For 34 years, Cathy Guisewite’s eponymous comic strip drew laughs from her avatar’s frustrations with life’s “four basic guilt groups”: food, love, mother and work. Guisewite, 59, decided it was time to quit, and in October, 700 newspapers ran the final strip, in which Cathy announced her long-awaited (especially by her mother) pregnancy.
Submerged:New Moore/South Talpatti
What you called it depended on where you stood: created in the Bay of Bengal by a 1970 cyclone, the island was New Moore to India and South Talpatti to Bangladesh. Both nations claimed it in a tense dispute, not for what the two-square-kilometre sandbar itself offered, but for the rights to its offshore oil. Now rising sea levels have left the island and the claims lost beneath the waves, in one of global warming’s more beneficial effects.
Packed up: Lloyd Robertson
The most trusted man on Canadian TV may not yet be gone, but he is going: the 76-year-old news anchor announced in July that he would retire in mid-2011. That will give CTV time to smoothly introduce Robertson’s successor, Lisa LaFlamme, and—it hopes—avoid the ratings drop usually experienced by news shows when a familiar face says so long.
Locked up: Russell Williams
After the convicted murderer was sentenced to two life terms, Chief of the Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk—pointedly calling him “Mr. Williams”—announced a first in Canadian history: Governor General David Johnston had revoked Williams’s commission as a colonel. The military also stripped Williams of his medals, burned his uniform and boots, tossed him altogether from its ranks, and clawed back his pay since his arrest. His pension, however, is protected by law.
First it was the money that disappeared, as Canada’s once pre-eminent media empire filed for bankruptcy protection in January. Then it was the turn of the Asper family whose fiefdom it was when CEO Leonard Asper resigned. Next the newspapers were sold off, followed by the TV assets; then, finally, the CanWest brand itself. Seven years after the death of patriarch Izzy Asper, who started the conglomerate with a single Winnipeg TV station, the empty shell of CanWest is now called 2737469 Canada Inc.
Dumped: Jaroslav Halák
Most wonder-working playoff goalies can expect a fat pay raise and a secure place as their team’s starter. Not Halák: three weeks after his brilliant play carried the Montreal Canadiens far deeper into the post-season than they had any right to expect, the 25-year-old Slovak was sent to the St. Louis Blues. When Halák came back to Montreal in the fall for a previously scheduled autograph session, 5,000 shocked and still-smitten fans showed up.
Sent Home: BRIG.-GEN. Ménard
In May, Daniel Ménard, a 42-year-old married father of two, was at the head of 5,000 Canadian and American troops preparing a major offensive in southern Afghanistan. In June, relieved of command, he was back in Canada in disgrace, awaiting court martial for inappropriate conduct, after news of his alleged affair with a female corporal became public. The news got worse for Ménard in November: the once rising star now also faces four counts of obstruction of justice, raising the possibility of prison time.
Paid off: German WWI debt
Crippling reparations were among the measures the victorious Allies exacted from Germany after the Great War. The staggering amount—fixed at $30 billion in 1921—fuelled German resentment and the Nazi rise to power. Hitler refused to pay it, and a devastated West Germany couldn’t. In 1953 payments started again, with a proportion put aside until reunification—which then seemed the next best thing to forgiving it. But in October, 21 years after the Berlin Wall came down and payments began yet again, the final bond for the last $94 million was retired.
Driven out: Helen Thomas
After more than a half century—most with her own assigned seat—in the White House briefing room, Thomas, 89, was a media icon in Washington. The first woman to serve as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Thomas was known for her sharp, politically loaded questions. But when she told a microphone-wielding rabbi that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home to Poland, Germany and America,” her iconic status ended in a storm of condemnation, and Thomas abruptly quit her job.
Cancelled: Law & Order
A 20-year run is almost an eternity on network TV, but that doesn’t mean fans of the Manhattan-set show weren’t shocked when NBC announced its demise—especially when another year of life would have let it break the tie with Gunsmoke for longest-running scripted drama. The program’s two-part formula—a half-hour dedicated to investigation and arrest, a half-hour in court—compellingly blended two popular crime genres. And it spawned a franchise: while the original show (known as the mother ship) has been scuttled, Law & Order: Los Angeles and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit sail on.
Extradited: Marc Emery
The Prince of Pot successfully battled Canadian cannabis laws for years and made millions from his mail-order seed business, money he plowed into pro-pot political activism, including his regular campaigns for mayor of Vancouver. But in March Emery lost a five-year battle to avoid extradition to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. That meant his plea bargain with American prosecutors, reached last year, went into effect. In September, Emery, 52, began serving a five-year sentence. His next campaign: transferring to a Canadian pen.
Withdrawn: one-word exam
For 78 years, Oxford’s All Souls College, founded in 1438 and home to a few luminaries of academia and public life, would select the two new postgraduates it admits annually through a gruelling exam process: 12 hours of writing over two days, capped by a celebrated essay on a single word. Past choices included “charity,” “chaos” and “mercy.” The unveiling of the Word was once such an event that even non-applicants would gather outside the exam hall to learn the year’s choice. The aim was to test intellectual agility, but All Souls has now decided the results were a far better indicator of agility than intellect.