Newsmakers: the happy holidays to the ‘infidel atheists’ edition

Pope Francis goes incognito in Rome and a Manitoba politician gives a holiday greeting

by Aaron Wherry, Barry Hertz, Jaime Weinman, and Patricia Treble

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

Happy holidays, infidels

Brian Pallister, leader of the Progressive Conservative party in Manitoba, hopes everyone will enjoy themselves this holiday season, even you “infidel atheists.” In a video posted to YouTube last week, Pallister says, “I want to wish everyone a really, really merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, all the holidays—all you infidel atheists out there, I want to wish you the very best also.” Possibly this was meant as a joke, but the Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, a secular organization, was unimpressed. In fairness, Pallister did tell the “infidel atheists” it was “your choice and I respect your choice . . . If you wish to celebrate nothing and just get together with friends, that’s good, too.”

Rob Ford touches down

With the Buffalo Bills in Toronto to play their annual Canadian game, it was probably inevitable that Toronto’s most-celebrated football fan would make an appearance. And so it was that Rob Ford arrived at the Rogers Centre on Sunday afternoon, wearing a Bills jersey, to take a seat in the stands. Actually, the mayor took someone else’s seat—the spot that belonged to Canadian rocker Matt Mays. The mayor’s arrival caused a stir and a rush of photo and autograph seekers. Ford didn’t stick around for the second half, but his support was appreciated by Buffalo running back Fred Jackson, whose jersey Ford wore. “I mean, you always take the support, wherever it is,” Jackson said afterward. “And I appreciate him showing his support for me, wearing my jersey. With all the things going on, that still means a lot.”

Modern love

Pushed by her 12-year-old son Jackson, actress Maria Bello confirmed in a New York Times column on Sunday that she’s in a relationship with social media executive Clare Munn. As Jackson said, “Mom, love is love, whatever you are.” And “whatever” seems to suit Bello and her modern family, including Jackson’s father, Dan McDermott, who shares dinner with them most nights. One day later, British Olympic diver Tom Daley, 19, revealed in a YouTube video that he’s seeing a man, but isn’t ruling anything out. “Of course, I still fancy girls,” he said. “But right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier.”

Have the Mounties gone to pot?

RCMP Cpl. Ronald Francis is legally permitted to smoke marijuana—he just can’t puff on a joint while wearing a Mountie uniform. Francis, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, has been prescribed medical marijuana, which, he says, he smokes three times a day. The RCMP says the sight of a uniformed Mountie smoking marijuana “would not portray the right message to the general public” and that “any member on a mind-altering drug . . . is not permitted to perform operational duties, including carrying a firearm or operating a police vehicle, as this could pose a risk to themselves, a co-worker or the public.” Cpl. Francis turned over his uniforms to the RCMP last week.

Patrick Brazeau, reporter for hire

Just a few weeks after Sen. Patrick Brazeau was booted from Parliament for two years without pay over allegations of improper expenses, the politician is back in Ottawa—this time, as a freelance reporter for Frank Magazine. The Halifax-based satirical magazine hired Brazeau after he shamelessly shopped his resumé on Twitter, noting “I’m 4 hire b/c Harper suspended me!” And since Frank revels in being a “pain [in] the arse of the comfortable,” according to managing editor Andrew Douglas, that could mean difficult times ahead for Brazeau’s former Tory colleagues.

The Vatican, after dark

Back when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis regularly snuck at night to feed and visit the homeless, a clandestine gesture that cemented his reputation as a champion of the downtrodden. It appears that old habits die hard. A “knowledgeable source” told the Huffington Post this week that the pontiff has been leaving the Vatican during the evenings, “dressed as a regular priest,” to meet with nearby homeless men and women. The Vatican has yet to comment on the rumours, though Konrad Krajewski, the Vatican almoner, hinted that Francis was joining him on trips into Rome. “When I say to him, ‘I’m going out into the city this evening,’ there’s the constant risk he will come with me.”

Milchan, Arnon Milchan

As a producer behind such Hollywood films as Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Knight and Day, Arnon Milchan knew all about big-screen spies—yet he was living his own espionage thriller off-screen. On a recent Israeli talk show, the movie tycoon finally confirmed longtime rumours that he spent the 1970s secretly buying arms for Israel and helping to build up its covert nuclear arsenal. He also hinted that he couldn’t always keep his film and spying careers separate, and that other industry people may have been involved. At least we know what a movie producer actually does.

Pizza Hut eats slice of humble pie

Thanksgiving is a time for turkey and awkward familial conversations—it is not a time for pizza. So decided Tony Rohr, manager of the Pizza Hut in Elkhart, Ind., who was fired after refusing to comply with what he termed the “greedy, immoral request” to make employees work on Thanksgiving Day. Cue the social media outrage. Faced with such negative publicity, the corporate capitulation was inevitable. “We fully respect an employee’s right not to work on a holiday, which is why the vast majority of Pizza Huts in America are closed on Thanksgiving,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, we strongly recommended that the local franchisee reinstate the store manager, and they have agreed.”

A police officer’s job is non-stop

When a passenger on a flight from Poland to Toronto decided he would attempt to attack the flight crew, an attendant appealed to Kyle Talsma for assistance. Talsma stuck out because of his size—six foot four and 230 lb. Luckily, he is also a hockey player. Luckier still, he is a police officer and was travelling with 17 members of his police hockey team. The passenger—who allegedly tried to choke an attendant—was subdued and handed over to on-duty officers when the flight landed.

Bear with us

Bear No. 122, a grizzly located in Banff National Park, is the king of all bears. Or perhaps merely quite hungry. Having already killed and eaten two black bears and dined on an elk carcass, No. 122 is now reported to have consumed a second elk carcass. It took him a week to finish the second elk, leaving behind only the hide and bones. While the grizzly’s dining has caused area closures, he is not thought to be a threat to humans. “We’ve had a number of situations like this, but we’ve never had aggressive situations,” Parks Canada’s Steve Michel told the Calgary Sun. “He’s just travelling through the landscape doing what he’s doing—it’s what national parks are for.”

What would Jack Donaghy do?

What does Alec Baldwin blame for the almost instant cancellation of his MSNBC news show Up Late? The poor quality of the show? The terrible ratings? No, it’s gay activists. The show was suspended from the air after Baldwin was accused of using an anti-gay slur against a photographer. The former 30 Rock star said that “the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy” caused the plug to be pulled on his new career as a news personality. At least he’ll always have his Twitter feed.

Taken for far too long

It’s not a record anyone dreams of breaking, but Robert Levinson, who was taken captive in Iran in 2007, just surpassed the record for the most days spent as a hostage. The previous record was held by an Associated Press journalist, but Levinson, a former FBI agent who was last seen in photographs holding a “Help me” sign, has taken the dubious prize. The U.S. is bringing Levinson’s release up as a possible demand in its negotiations with Iran.

BitTorrent in the rye

The reclusive writer J.D. Salinger may be dead, but his secrets are still leaking out. The author of The Catcher in the Rye left directions that his unpublished works should remain that way for decades after his death, but an anonymous scanner has found and copied an illegally printed 1999 book with three of Salinger’s unseen short stories. The scans were posted to Reddit last week and were confirmed as authentic by a Salinger expert. Now, anyone with Internet access can disobey a literary legend’s last wishes.

Everybody cries

At five foot eleven, Knowshon Moreno is a pipsqueak by NFL standards. But when it comes to crying, the Denver Broncos running back is in a league of his own. On Sunday, he was caught on camera with a waterfall of tears streaming down his face during the national anthem, setting off a frenzy of online memes. “The emotion always gets to me,” he told Yahoo! Sports. “Sometimes I don’t even notice it, it just comes.” He cries at practice, as well, reports teammate Montee Ball, who notes, “We all feed off that energy.” Sure enough, the team beat the Kansas City Chiefs on the weekend.

Family night at the movies

David and Victoria Beckham, along with sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, attended the world premiere of The Class of 92 in London on Monday. The documentary, which focuses on David’s rise through the football ranks, culminates in Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League triumph.




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