Newsmakers - Macleans.ca
 

Newsmakers

Ashley Judd vs. miners, “Sonny” Franzese rats out his dad, and Shaun White finds another sport he’s brilliant at


 

Run all the way home, boys
Prime Minister David Cameron jogged with British troops in Afghanistan Friday and said their mission was about “our national security in the U.K.” The task isn’t a “dreamy idea” of building a model society, he said. “We are here to help the Afghans take control of their security so we can go home.”

Anything but harmonized
British Columbia’s version of the anti-tax Tea Party continues to gather steam. On Friday, provincial Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom quit the cabinet and the Liberal caucus to protest government plans to press ahead with the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on July 1. Opinion is divided: was Lekstrom acting on principle or trying to save his political skin? More than 15 per cent of B.C. voters have signed a recall campaign opposing the tax. What isn’t in dispute is that Premier Gordon Campbell is in trouble, thanks to recall organizer Bill Vander Zalm. The 76-year-old Vander Zalm resigned as premier in 1991 after questionable business dealings caused a public uprising.

He’s heck on wheels, too
Shaun White has temporarily packed away his snowboard after dominating the halfpipe in Vancouver to win his second Olympic gold. White, the flame-haired dynamo, will spend the summer on the skateboard circuit—a sport where he is also a superstar. He’ll compete in the International Skateboarding Federation World Championships in June in Boston. He won the championship in 2007 and has a serious shot at the top again. White also emerged as the most popular active athlete in the Sports Q Scores list, which rates athletes’ potential for marketing and advertising deals—a list Tiger Woods once dominated. After White’s star turn in Vancouver, some speculate skateboarding would make a fine addition to the Summer Olympics.

And that Copernicus fellow, he was no help
Stephen Hawking, the renowned theoretical physicist, and Charles, Prince of Wales, an ardent environmentalist, came down last week on opposite sides of the age-old question of God vs. science. In Hawking’s view, God can be defined as the “embodiment of the laws of nature.” Charles, in a speech, blamed scientists dating back to Galileo for taking a profit-centred “mechanistic” view of the universe. “As a result, nature has been completely objectified. ‘She’ has become an ‘it,’ and we are persuaded to concentrate on the material aspect of reality that fits within Galileo’s scheme.”

The mountain of good intentions
Actress Ashley Judd made a plea last week to end the practice of blasting away mountains in her native Kentucky to extract coal. The speech at the National Press Club in Washington burnished her environmental credentials but it may not win much love from hard-pressed miners. Mountaintop mining is “the rape of Appalachia,” she said. “It is utterly inconceivable that the Smokies would be blasted, the Rockies razed, the Sierra Nevadas flattened.” Later, Judd, who just received a mid-career master’s degree in public administration from Harvard, was pressed for details on what miners should be retrained to do. “It’s not my job to figure that out,” she said.

It’s hard raising a good Mafioso
John “Sonny” Franzese, an aging underboss in the Colombo crime family of New York, had a soft spot for his kids, but they’ve proven to be a major disappointment. Son Michael renounced the mob and became a born-again Christian. His second son, John Jr., went further, accepting $50,000 from the FBI and a witness-protection deal to rat out his 93-year-old dad. Details are emerging in a New York court about the elder Franzese’s attempts to extort money from clubs and a restaurant. Even Michael is shocked at his brother’s betrayal. John Jr., a former mob bagman, said he wanted to make amends for past crimes by testifying against his father. “What kind of despicable, sub-human person does that,” Sonny Franzese’s defence lawyer, Richard Lind, asked the jury.

A hopeful new chapter
On her first day in Toronto last Friday, prominent Honduran broadcast journalist Karol Cabrera looked forward to a trip to a park with her children. Then it was time to search out schools for her four-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter—gloriously normal things after a year of terror and tragedy. Cabrera, an opponent of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, survived assassination attempts that have claimed five journalists in the past year. One attack in December killed her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. Cabrera was wounded in an ambush in March when her colleague Joseph Ochoa was killed and their vehicle was riddled with bullets. She was granted asylum in Canada and the status of a “protected person” after a campaign by Toronto immigration lawyer Angelica González-Blanco. Canada represents “a new and exciting life for me and my children,” Cabrera told the Miami Herald.

A very major minor problem
Has Internet gossip-monger Perez Hilton finally gone too far? On Sunday he posted a revealing upskirt photo of teen singer Miley Cyrus. While that’s typical on his site, Cyrus doesn’t turn 18 until November. Accusations of distributing naked pictures of a minor caused Hilton to yank the photos in hope of avoiding charges. (Some suspect the picture was digitally doctored, but posting it would still be a crime.) Hilton’s liability is “extraordinary and intense,” L.A. attorney Jeffrey Douglas told Salon. “[It was] suicidal for him to do this.” Hilton then posted a video Monday that shows he knew she’s a minor. “It’s okay for Miley to be a little bit sexier,” he says, “because she’s almost 18.” Will prosecutors beg to differ?

What would Dilbert say?
The massive Gulf Coast oil leak has turned petroleum giant BP into a global punching bag—all the more reason to invest while its stock, like its oil, is under water, says Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip. Adams advises investing in companies you detest. “I hate BP but I admire them, too, in the way I respect the work ethic of serial killers,” he wrote in an essay. “If there’s oil on the moon, BP will be the first to send a hose into space and suck on the moon until it’s the size of a grapefruit. As an investor, that’s the side I want to be on: with BP, not the loser moon.”

God rethinks political endorsement
Four Christian lawyers lost their bid to become “God’s ambassadors” on the bench. Craig Candelore, Larry “Jake” Kincaid, Bill Trask and Harold J. Coleman Jr. were soundly beaten by incumbent judges last week when they ran in elections for places on the San Diego Superior Court. The four had the backing of pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages, but voters apparently sided with critics who said the religious agenda threatened judicial impartiality.

Bull? Crap!
Staring down a seriously annoyed half-tonne bull Sunday caused a 22-year-old matador to rethink his career options. Christian Hernandez dropped his red cape and ran from the ring at the Plaza Mexico in Mexico City. Organizers coaxed him back, but when he fled again they had him arrested for breach of contract. He was released after paying a fine. Hernandez, who was gored in the leg several months ago, will retire. “I didn’t have the ability. I didn’t have the balls,” he said. “This is not my thing.”

A life-changing Facebook message
A posting from an apparent illegal alien in San Francisco on the website postsecret.com—a place where people bare their souls—galvanized Nanaimo, B.C., resident Kimberly Furnell to launch a Facebook anti-suicide movement joined by tens of thousands around the globe. Furnell said she was devastated when the anonymous poster wrote: “I don’t belong anywhere. This summer I plan to jump off the Golden Gate [bridge].” She created the Facebook group “Please don’t jump,” “in hope the person would see it and reconsider.” Messages of support flooded in. And a group of young people rallied on the storied bridge, chalking anti-suicide messages on the sidewalk. “You are a miracle,” one said. “One day you’ll look back on this thought and be glad you didn’t,” read another.

Just a bit more to the right
Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders has compared the Quran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and called Islam the “Netherlands’ biggest problem.” Now, after last week’s third-place election finish, Wilders’ Freedom Party may have a place in his country’s next coalition government. “More safety, less crime, less immigration and less Islam is what the Netherlands has chosen,” said Wilders, whose party won triple the seats of its previous count. The Liberals, led by Mark Rutte, may have little choice but to share power. They came first, with just 31 seats after promising a severe austerity program. Negotiations may take months. Wilders goes on trial in October for inciting hatred against Muslims.

Last gorgeous woman standing
In Toronto on Monday, the Miss Universe Canada crown went to York University student Elena Semikina, who, at six foot one, towered over the competition. But if anyone doubted beauty pageants are a blood sport, consider the collateral damage. Contestant Tiffany Munro of Edmonton stumbled while giving a well-meaning talk on body image to Oshawa high school students. Pageant organizers didn’t want contestants looking anorexic, she said, “like some little African child with ribs going on.” The comparison stunned contestant Solange Tuyishime who, as a young girl, escaped the war and genocide in Rwanda. Later, Tuyishime graciously told the Toronto Star that pageants offer people a chance “to learn from each other.”


 

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