Newsmakers

The Clintons are pleased to announce almost nothing, Arcade Fire’s class act, and Rowan Atkinson’s cunning plan

If they had a million dollars
Montreal rockers Arcade Fire will match donations up to $1 million to Kanpe, a charity rebuilding family life after the Haitian earthquake. “We’re all family in times like this,” said Régine Chassagne, whose parents were born in Haiti. “Please,” her husband Win Butler urged fans, “take our money.”

For better and worse, check
In 1984, Steve Fonyo ran across Canada, raising $13 million for cancer research, an epic achievement for a 19-year-old with a prosthetic leg. His life since, always in the shadow of the late Terry Fox who attempted a similar feat in 1981, has been a train wreck. He was stripped of the Order of Canada last year after a long battle with addictions and multiple criminal convictions. He’d hoped a planned Aug. 28 wedding would signal a turnaround, but that, too, went off the rails when it was revealed last week that his fiancée, Lisa Greenwood, is serving a jail sentence for theft and assault. Victoria-area business people, who had planned to underwrite the ceremony at the city’s Fonyo Beach, where he’d ended his run, rescinded their offer. John Vickers, executive director of the Victoria Truth Centre, who helped arrange the event, said the couple’s “lives are too complicated at this time for a supported wedding to occur.”

He’s waiting for the sequel
An elegantly attired George Clooney caused a stir in an Italian courtroom Friday as he testified in the fraud trial of three men accused of using the actor’s name and image to launch a fashion line of clothing. “Don’t crush my lawyers,” he joked as he pressed through a crowd of fans and into the Milan courtroom. “I came here because I believe in the judicial system and because there were people using my name to take advantage of people,” he told the court. Judge Pietro Caccialanza thanked Clooney for his 90 minutes on the stand, saying his testimony “has lasted as long as a movie,” the BBC reported.

Shall we assume there’s a moratorium on salaries, too?
A vote for Republicans should be a vote for doing nothing, suggests that party’s House minority leader John Boehner. The U.S. representative from Ohio has thrown his support behind a one-year moratorium on almost all new federal regulations as part of a mid-term election strategy—a move that would leave bureaucrat and politician alike twiddling their thumbs. The exception: emergencies like the Gulf oil rig disaster. The plan would effectively repeal the health-care overhaul and the financial regulation package, key initiatives by President Barack Obama. “It sends a wonderful signal to the private sector that they’ll have some breathing room,” Boehner said.

That ain’t hay
Fans of movie cowboy Roy Rogers and his wife and co-star Dale Evans shelled out almost US$3 million last week when Christie’s auction house sold the contents of the late couple’s defunct museum in Branson, Mo. Bullet, the couple’s German shepherd, sold for $35,000, and Roger’s heroic horse, Trigger, netted $266,000—not bad for two animals that were stuffed and mounted more than 40 years ago. Both were bought by Patrick Gottsch, owner of RFD-TV in Omaha, Neb. He’ll start airing old Roy Rogers movies this fall. The animals will serve as a backdrop while the couple’s son Roy Jr., himself a singing cowboy, introduces each film.

The pride of Chambly
Simon Bernier, 15, of Chambly, Que., had read the novel Hatchet, about surviving in the woods after a plane crash, but he drew on his own courage last Friday when fiction became reality. A fishing trip ended in a fiery plane crash in the Quebec woods near Chute-des-Passes. He pulled his father, Michel, and his badly burned great-uncle Pierre Bernier from the wreck. Simon’s brother Louis, 13, was thrown from the plane. He died in Simon’s arms. His father died moments later. The pilot and another uncle, Rejean, did not survive the crash. Simon, who’d performed CPR on his great-uncle, gave him his sweater, cut spruce boughs to make him comfortable and pounded on the plane with a paddle to direct the rescuers who ended his nine-hour ordeal. “Simon is my hero,” said Pierre’s wife, Marcelle Guay. “He accomplished a miracle.”

That’s family values for you
The decision of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston to announce their engagement on the cover of Us Weekly may have been primed by a $100,000 payment, reports the New York Post, despite denials from the magazine. The pair reuinted while working out custody arrangments for their son, Tripp, they told the magazine. And there’s no reality show in the works. Todd and Sarah Palin, who feuded with Johnston, the father of their grandson, were blindsided by the wedding plans. Indications are Sarah is unwilling to bury the hatchet, at least any place Johnston would want to find it.

People living in glass houses
Rowan Atkinson, the 55-year-old comic behind the bumbling anti-heroes Blackadder and Mr. Bean, has alarmed neighbours in a staid, seventh-century village with his plans to build a modernist glass and steel residence. Atkinson plans to knock down a crumbling 1930s-era pile known as Handsmooth House in Ipsden, Oxfordshire, and replace it with a mansion designed by U.S. architect Richard Meier. Area farmer Ben Yates likened the design to “an ugly space-age petrol station.” A parish councillor called it “out of place” and neighbour Emma Hulbert called it “wholly inappropriate for a rural landscape.” Atkinson defended his eco-friendly home. “I don’t want to live in a house that is weird or futuristic, but one that is simple, graceful and elegant,” he said. “It would be a shame if people felt that there was no place in the countryside for modern design.”

Shamed straight?
Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly has won both praise and condemnation for an email he sent to regional councillors urging some members to curb their excessive drinking. It’s the third time in five years he’s lectured council on alcohol abuse. “A number of councillors, staff as well as members of the public have approached me with concerns about the abuse of alcohol—including drinking and driving—by members of council,” he wrote in the memo, leaked to the Halifax Chronicle Herald. Kelly, who denied leaking the memo, urged councillors to “reflect on the ramifications, should a tragedy occur.” Coun. Sue Uteck said the memo tarred all councillors with the same brush. Coun. Gloria McCluskey said Kelly should have addressed the issue behind closed doors, rather than by email.

MOTB stays mum
Say what you will about Bill and Hillary Clinton, but they did their best to protect the privacy of their daughter Chelsea as she grew up in the White House. They’ve been equally successful in slapping a cone of silence around 30-year-old Chelsea’s wedding to investment banker and fellow Stanford alum Marc Mezvinsky. It may be held at a mansion on July 31 in quaint Rhinebeck, N.Y. Or not. The guest list consists of people “who have been meaningful in her life,” says her mother. The ex-president says his only job is to pay for the event. That, adds his wife, and walking her down the aisle without dissolving into a puddle. “He’s going to be so emotional, as am I.”

Iron and whine
News that A-list actress Meryl Streep is in talks to play Margaret Thatcher hasn’t stopped the family of the former British prime minister from being “appalled” at the premise of the movie. The screenplay for The Iron Lady is said to depict the baroness as an elderly dementia-sufferer looking back on her career. “They think it sounds like some left-wing fantasy,” a friend of the family told the Telegraph, although there are reports Thatcher is indeed frail and often confused. “They feel strongly about it, but will not speak publicly for fear of giving it more publicity.” Cameron McCracken, managing director for the film financier Pathé, said the issue of Lady Thatcher’s health will be “treated with appropriate sensitivity.”

A face that she’ll never see
Eleven years after Chrissy Steltz’s skull was ripped apart by a shotgun blast, the young mother is again ready to face the world and her one-year-old son, thanks to a team of doctors who built her a prosthetic face. Steltz, from Milwaukie, Ore., was 16 when she lost her eyes, nose, much of her skull as well as her sense of sight, smell and taste in the blast caused by a drunken friend. For a decade she wore a black sleep mask to hide the damage, but she carried on with her life, meeting her boyfriend Geoffrey Dilger at a school for the blind, and having a child. Doctors used pictures of Steltz before the accident to create the snap-on face using flesh-coloured silicone. They baked in makeup, creating a mask so real her mother cried when she saw the result. Steltz says, “My son can grow to know his mom looking like a regular person.”

That’s just bananas
Roberto Cabrera, 38, is not the type you want to sit beside on a plane. He arrived Monday in Mexico City on a flight from Lima, Peru, when his nervousness, and perhaps the bulges on his person, attracted police. A search revealed 18 tiny titi monkeys, two of them dead, hidden in the pockets of a girdle under his shirt. The endangered animals can sell for $1,000 each.

Another softy gives it away
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has donated $1 billion to charities and research over the past 20 years, but he said last week he’s just getting started. Allen, 57, said the bulk of his US$13.5-billion estate will go to philanthropic causes, much of it focused on scientific research and high-impact programs for local communities. Allen’s friends (and fellow Microsoft geeks) Bill and Melinda Gates and mega-investor Warren Buffett recently urged America’s rich to share their wealth. Allen said that was always his plan, one that will continue after his lifetime.

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