Newsmakers: June 9 – 16, 2011

A 65-year murder mystery solved, Bieber takes a beating, and Danny Williams has got game

Newsmaker

Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Done in by the velluvial matrix

Grads from the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine were enjoying an after-dinner speech at their banquet last week when the words of Dr. Philip Baker, dean of the medical school, sounded vaguely familiar. “A couple of students recognized the term ‘velluvial matrix,’ ” class president Brittany Barber told the Edmonton Sun. “They googled it on their phones.” It showed Baker has borrowed heavily from a speech delivered last year at Stanford by Dr. Atul Gawande, a Boston surgeon and a writer for the New Yorker magazine. Accusations of plagiarism prompted an apology from Baker, who said he was inspired by Gawande’s speech, which “resonated with my experiences.” Baker added that he’s since spoken to Gawande, who “was flattered by my use of his text, took no offence and readily accepted my apology.” The university is investigating.

Dementia’s painful toll

It’s only been a few weeks since Ralph Klein and his wife, Colleen, revealed that the former Alberta premier is suffering from progressive dementia. Although the couple is said to be heartened by the good wishes they’ve received from across the country since then, Ralph’s decline, at age 68, has been rapid and devastating. “He’s starting to get a little bit worse,” Colleen told Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid. “I’m not sure he always recognizes me anymore. He never says my name.”

Finding him once was sufficient

Bill Warren has hovered with little success between careers as a Las Vegas nightclub singer and an undersea explorer, though he demonstrates a talent for self-promotion. His latest venture is no exception: news that he is setting out to find the body of Osama bin Laden, buried at sea after his assassination last month by U.S. Navy SEALs. Warren says the hunt will involve several ships and cost about US$400,000. His aim is to confirm that bin Laden is dead. “We do this because we are patriotic Americans and feel that President [Barack] Obama failed to provide the proof,” he told TMZ.

A brave girl’s bucket list

British 15-year-old Alice Pyne has a matter-of-fact way of blogging about the unspeakable. “I’ve been fighting cancer for almost four years now and I know that the cancer is gaining on me and it doesn’t look like I’m going to win this one.” She posted a list of things to do before she dies, and people have rushed to make it happen. She’s met British pop group Take That, and had supportive tweets from Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. Prime Minister David Cameron raised in Parliament her wish for everyone to become a bone marrow donor.

An elderly assassin comes clean

For 65 years, Atie Ridder-Visser, a member of the Dutch resistance during the Nazi occupation, carried a dark secret: she was the assassin who killed construction company owner Felix Gulje in 1946. Ridder-Visser, now a frail 96-year-old, confessed in a letter that she shot him on his doorstep in the mistaken belief that he’d been a Nazi collaborator, the Associated Press reports. In fact, Gulje had secretly sheltered Jews during the war. Ridder-Visser sent the confession to the mayor of Leiden, Henri Lenferink, who released details last week. She won’t be prosecuted. Still, he says, “It is a case of vigilantism, and is unacceptable.”

Sticks and stones

In the musical equivalent of kicking puppies, rapper Eminem put the boots to pop cutie Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga in a track titled A Kiss. He raps: “Tell Lady Gaga she can quit her job at the post office / She’s still a male lady.” And the Bieb? “What a demon, a behemoth, evil just seems to be seeping through him.” Of course it’s all in good fun, says Eminem’s sidekick Royce Da 5’9”, his partner on their new album Hell: The Sequel.

Puck luck

The NHL’s return to Winnipeg made such a splash the waves reached St. John’s, Nfld. The Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League will move from Winnipeg to start next season in St. John’s. The deal was orchestrated in part by former premier Danny Williams, whose influence and deep pockets helped negotiate a lease of the franchise from True North Sports, owners of the new Winnipeg team. “We got it!” Williams told a crowd of 600 at Mile One Centre, the team’s new home—the phrase he used after landing the Atlantic accord as premier. The city has been without a pro team since the St. John’s Maple Leafs left in 2005.

Sun News busts a move

Sun News emerged from obscurity to generate a minor controversy. For 20 minutes last week, host Krista Erickson attacked interpretive dance legend Margie Gillis, demanding to know why Gillis and her dance foundation have, over the past 13 years, received $1.2 million in grants, roughly $100,000 per year. Erickson—who also mimed an interpretive dance routine, with crazy arm movements—then howled over Gillis’s responses: “We have lost more than 150 soldiers who have served in Afghanistan!” she said. “They have put their lives on the line and, you know, it is, frankly, quite a serious business compared with people dancing on a stage!” Gillis, who responded with bemused equanimity, said the funding was actually spread over a much longer period of time (she’s been performing for 39 years), and supported a team, covering touring costs and the creation of new works. Gillis refrained from noting that Erickson previously worked for the CBC, whose government subsidy exceeds $1 billion a year.

Taking wifely duty too far

Love means never saying no to your husband’s desires, say members of Malaysia’s new Obedient Wives Club. “Sex is taboo in Asian society,” said Dr. Rohaya Mohamed, vice-president of the 800-member club. “We have ignored it in our marriages but it’s all down to sex. A good wife is a good sex worker to her husband.” She said the club’s aim is to curb social ills like prostitution and divorce. Such subservience appalled many in this liberal, predominantly Muslim nation. Equating wives to prostitutes tarnishes Islam, said Women and Family Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

The lady’s not for spurning

Great was the outrage from the American right last week after Britain’s Guardian reported that former PM Margaret Thatcher has zero interest in meeting Tea Party darling Sarah Palin during her upcoming visit to London. It quoted an anonymous “ally” of the Iron Lady saying that “Sarah Palin is nuts.” The Guardian’s item sent Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators into orbit, perhaps with justification. Writing in the Telegraph, Nile Gardiner, a former Thatcher aide, called the item a low bit of “mischief-making.” There was no snub, he said. At 85, the frail Thatcher simply doesn’t receive visitors.

The honeymoon continues

Dilma Rousseff, the first woman to lead Brazil, is having difficulty translating her popularity with voters into a successful relationship with congress, whose help she needs in taming Brazil’s hot economy and high inflation. But Rousseff, a former leftist militant who took office in January, has weathered her first crisis: the resignation last week of Antonio Palocci, her chief of staff, embroiled in an influence-peddling scandal. She swiftly replaced him with first-time senator Gleisi Hoffman, a signal she’s in control of her government’s coalition.

On the rebound

With her ex-husband Mutt Lange out of the picture, it was another heel that tripped up Shania Twain during the CMT Music Awards in Nashville last week. She blamed her stilettos for the tumble she took while heading to the stage to present Blake Shelton with the Male Video of the Year award. It was a rare misstep in a week that saw her ink a two-year deal to perform 60 live shows at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas starting in 2012. She also released an optimistic pop song, Today is Your Day, on iTunes, the first single written on her own in six years.

Wish my kid could paint that

“My kid could paint that,” goes the popular art critique. In the case of Melbourne, Australia-based artist Michael Andre, his kid did paint that, and her works are selling for up to US$24,000. Andre’s four-year-old daughter Aelita opened her first exhibit at a Manhattan gallery last week, and almost sold out works like Asteroid and Dog & Alien. Her style might owe a debt to abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock—only Aelita’s not sure who that is. Her father describes her as “a completely and utterly innocent eye coming to a canvas.”

Never saw it coming

Judgment Day almost arrived last week for Harold Camping, the California preacher who wrongly predicted doomsday would come on May 21. The 89-year-old Camping suffered a stroke in his Alameda home following a broadcast on his Family Radio show. Station manager Charlie Menut posted a message on an Internet forum asking the public to pray for him and to respect his privacy.

Catherine steps into her new role

The duchess of Cambridge, resplendent in an organza evening gown, began her life as a working royal by helping husband Prince William pry open pocketbooks at a London dinner for the ARK children’s charity. The evening raised some $28 million, much of it from wealthy hedge-fund managers.

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