Newsmakers

Hugo Chávez’s weird new quest, a flight attendant who’s had enough, and the Judy Garland of the American right

Miss Australia’s technicolour tent
The “national costume” is one of the quainter events at next month’s Miss Universe contest. Trouble is, Australians don’t really have one, so Jesinta Campbell, 18, will represent Oz in what has been called a “national joke,” a “travesty” and a “dingo’s breakfast.” She says she’s proud of designer Natasha Dwyer’s creation, accurately describing it as “incredible.”

Good night, and good luck
After six tumultuous years at the head of the CBC’s English Services division, Richard Stursberg was shown the door late last week. Stursberg was closely associated with the broadcaster’s turn toward more commercial fare, most notably helping bring to air ratings hits such as Little Mosque on the Prairie and Dragons’ Den. But he also oversaw some of the most trying events in recent years, including the 2005 lockout of English-language radio and TV employees, and last year’s wave of layoffs. No reason was given for the departure, which was effective immediately, though rumours have swirled the former head of Telefilm Canada clashed with fellow executives over the Mother Corp.’s long-term strategy. The broadcaster has only confirmed the decision to let Stursberg go “was made by [CBC President] Hubert Lacroix.”

She’s picking up bad vibrations
The Beach Boys were hardly the first to “wish they all could be California girls,” but they may be called on to prove the sentiment is theirs alone, at least as far as lyrics go. Rondor Music International, which owns the rights to California Girls, has requested the band’s members be credited as ­co-writers of Katy Perry’s summer hit California Gurls. The dispute is over this line in Perry’s song, delivered by Snoop Dogg: “I really wish you all could be California girls”—an obvious nod to the Beach Boys classic. Brian Wilson and Mike Love of the surf pop band have both said they like her song, and Perry denies reports of a lawsuit. But an unequivocal statement by Rondor says the use of the line is “not appropriate under any circumstances.”

Cracking down on crime, one lemon at a time
When life gives you lemons, make darn sure your lemonade stand has a business licence. Alex Pedersen and Mackenzie Burke Sikorra, two enterprising 12-year-olds in Port Coquitlam, B.C., thought they’d found the ideal way to raise funds for team soccer uniforms. They set up a table, two stools and an umbrella in a city park and were selling lemonade, popcorn and dog treats, until a resident complained about their “elaborate” business. A bylaw officer “had to react” and shut them down, said city councillor Glenn Pollock. A small businesswoman in Portland, Ore., suffered a similar fate. Julie Murphy, 7, was selling Kool-Aid at 50 cents a cup at a local art fair when a government inspector demanded to see her US$120 business licence. She didn’t have one, so, threatened with a $500 fine, she tearfully closed up shop.

Coulter-gayist?
The first annual Homocon, a convention for gay conservatives, will be headlined by none other than Ann Coulter. That the cackling pundit still calls liberals “faggots” didn’t stop GOProud from celebrating what they call the “right-wing Judy Garland.” “This is about having fun,” says president Jimmy LaSalvia. “I don’t agree with everything she has said in her lifetime, just like she doesn’t agree with everything I’ve ever said—but we can still party together, right?”

But the workers of the world are cheering
If there is a hall of fame for dramatic, career-ending exits, JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater will get in on the first ballot. Slater had an argument on Monday with a passenger who struck him on the head while unloading a bag prematurely from the overhead bin as Flight 1052 arrived at JFK Airport from Pittsburgh. The passenger swore at Slater, who had demanded an apology, and things went south. Slater grabbed the plane’s intercom and raged: “To the passenger who called me a m—–f–ker, f–k you!” the New York Daily News said. With a dramatic “I’ve had it. That’s it,” he opened an emergency exit, activated the inflatable emergency slide and rode it to the ground. He was later arrested at his home in Queens. He faces several possible charges including criminal mischief.

Fool me thrice?
Former U.S. president George W. Bush is now releasing his memoir, Decision Points on Nov. 9, one week after the mid-term elections. The Financial Times reports that Bush insisted on the delay because he didn’t want to hurt Republican chances, though a spokesman for Crown Publishing said the release date was their decision. Some party members fear details of the book will leak, as they inevitably do. “Meaning the Bush years could be re-litigated and re-explored during the final, pivotal weeks of the campaign,” former Bush aide Matt Latimer wrote on the Daily Beast.

That’ll learn him
One moment Mark Hurd was a master of the universe, in the midst, sources said, of negotiating a US$100-million contract to carry on as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Then on Friday, he resigned in disgrace after an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint showed he’d fudged his expense account. The complaint was filed by Jodie Fisher, 50, a one-time actress in racy movies, who did contract marketing work for the computer giant. The allegations were not made public, but both parties say no sexual relationship took place. A company investigation did find Hurd falsified expenses relating to Fisher’s employment. As a result, he was shown the gate. A nice gate. His severance in money and stock is worth some US$28 million.

A very early victory party
While the official vote count won’t be in until later in the week, Rwandan President Paul Kagame was already celebrating his re-election to a second seven-year term. His Rwandan Patriotic Front invited supporters and tame journalists to a bash at the national stadium in Kigali on Monday night. The former army general has won support for rebuilding the country after the 1994 genocide, but has placed heavy limits on press freedom. Negative stories were censored and two rival parties banned from the election. His only opponents were three candidates who support his views. “I see no problems,” Kagame said, “but there are some people who choose to see problems where there are not.”

At least she has her health
A 23-year-old woman from Burlington, Ont., was back in court this week to face allegations she pocketed thousands of dollars in donations she collected after faking cancer. Ashley Anne Kirilow is accused of setting up a fake charity, “Change for a Cure,” under the ruse of being in the final stages of a disease she alternately described as breast, brain, liver, stomach and ovarian cancer. Kirilow went so far as to shave her head, pluck her eyebrows, and starve herself to make it look as though she was undergoing chemotherapy. Friends and acquaintances claim she made off with over $20,000 in donations, but she told a newspaper the amount was less than $5,000. She faces three counts of fraud under $5,000 in connection with the alleged scam.

A feeling in his bones
On Hugo Chávez’s orders, the remains of Simón Bolívar have been exhumed. Chávez wants to know if the Latin American independence hero died of TB, as historians insist, or was poisoned by rivals. Venezuela’s president has long worshipped “El Libertador,” even renaming the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela—no matter that Bolívar was markedly conservative. Before the teeth and bones were even tested for authenticity, Chávez knew they’d found the skeleton. “Yes, it’s me,” he heard Bolívar cry out, as he stared into the skull’s vacant eye sockets. “I confess we wept,” Chávez tweeted later.

Dahling dearest
According to a new biography by Donald Sturrock, beloved children’s author Roald Dahl led an extraordinary life during WWII as a philandering, Bond-style spy. When injuries grounded the “drop dead gorgeous” RAF pilot, he was dispatched to a secret service network based in the U.S.; there, the man behind such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory gathered more than intelligence. Bi-coastal bedmates included congresswoman Clare Booth Luce, oil heiress Millicent Rogers and a healthy number of actresses. The biggest surprise? That word didn’t leak earlier. “Dad never could keep his mouth shut,” said daughter Lucy. “He gossiped like a girl.”

With any luck, they learned their lesson
A suit that started with Montreal parents Kathryn Rosenstein and Hagop Artinian claiming their son was intimidated by his former Grade 4 teacher at a Westmount school, Mary Kanavaros, has ended with them being ordered to pay her $235,000 for defamation. The two parties had reached a settlement and agreed to keep the deal confidential. Instead, the parents went straight to media claiming they’d made their point. “Nothing is more false,” Justice Danielle Richer wrote in her ruling on the defamation suit launched by Kanavaros. Richer noted Kanavaros’s depression—she is on sick leave—is directly related to their “malicious attack.” She didn’t have kind words to say about the pair’s parenting skills.




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