Newsmakers

Berlusconi strikes again, Justin Bieber as wedding singer, and B.C. investigates the alleged bunny killer

Her future’s so bright
Carrying not one but two glasses of bubbly, Beth Ditto trotted the catwalk for Jean Paul Gauthier at Paris Fashion Week. Ahead of the show, the U.K.’s size-28 singer discussed her weight with a British TV host: “One of the most tiring parts of being fat and being proud of it is you do a lot of proving yourself.”

Or an old-fashioned prorogue
Former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Fortier has a novel idea to eliminate the constant threat of a referendum in Quebec: make the province hold one every 15 years, with no option to hold another in the intervening years. “As a federalist, I’d prefer that we didn’t hold them anymore,” he said. “But I’m a realist.” Unfortunately for Fortier, novel ideas aren’t necessarily good ones. Federalist politicians across the country were quick to pan the proposal. “I’m sure there are better things to schedule every 15 years,” said PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas, “like a high school reunion.”

Because the camera doesn’t lie
He’s as sharp on TV as he was on the stump, but Eliot Spitzer is still fighting the creep factor in his new role as co-host of the new CNN talk show, Parker Spitzer. “Crossfire meets Moonlighting” is how the New York Times television writer Alessandra Stanley described the show, noting an ill-advised air of flirtatiousness between the former New York governor and fellow host Kathleen Parker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with conservative leanings. Seated cheek to cheek behind a round table strewn with newspapers, the pair traded smiles and interrupted each other like second-marriage newlyweds, as they chewed over political news of the day with guests. Clearly, we’re supposed to forget the call-girl scandal that chased Spitzer from office. But his tight smile and darting eyes make it hard to suspend disbelief.

The wrong Un?
Remember that low-resolution photograph hailed as the first up-to-date image of Kim Jong Il’s son? Well, facial experts now question whether the jowly fellow pictured two seats away from the North Korean leader is, in fact, his anointed successor. Long-time watchers of the Hermit Kingdom had been abuzz after Pyongyang released the photo taken during a Workers’ Party meeting, along with video footage also purporting to show Kim Jong Un, whom Kim Sr. recently made a four-star army general. But a German expert who compared the images to several taken during Kim Jong Un’s youth—including one when he was attending a Swiss private school—was unconvinced. There is a “high probability,” he said, “that they are not one and the same person.”

Attack of the bunny killer
The Law Society of B.C. is investigating retired attorney Barbara Smith for reportedly hiring a trapper to kill at least 30 feral rabbits on her Vancouver Island farm. It was overrun with the fuzzy bunnies after the province transferred 1,400 of them to a nearby sanctuary from the University of Victoria campus. The animals are abandoned pets and their offspring—and Smith doesn’t want them either. If the complaints against her are founded, Smith faces reprimands and fines: retired members, not just practising lawyers, are bound by the society’s rules, which means doing in a few dozen bunnies may be deemed conduct unbecoming. Even if it’s almost understandable.

With colleagues like these . . .
Not even Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva himself could secure the presidency for Dilma Rousseff. The former Marxist guerrilla, hand-picked by Lula, was predicted to become the country’s first female president this week, but fell short of a first round victory; religious voters were put off by her ambivalent stance on abortion, forcing the vote into a runoff. In another stunning turn of events, “Tiririca” (or Grumpy) the clown—a.k.a. Francisco Silva—who campaigned on the slogan “It can’t get any worse,” earned more votes than any other congressional candidate. “What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don’t know,” he said in one ad. “But vote for me and you’ll find out.” His runaway win is being seen as a protest against a congress seen as corrupt and scandal-ridden.

Stealing the show
Justin Bieber is many things: teen heartthrob. Hairstyle icon. Musical prodigy. But wedding singer? When his guitarist and musical director Dan Kanter married fashion blogger Yael Latner in a traditional Jewish wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, the 16-year-old launched into an impromptu concert. Accompanied by Kanter and two backup singers, he loosened his tie and threw off his yarmulke. Later, he danced to the Hava Nagila and Get Down Tonight with other guests.

Fine not so dandy
In French law, money is apparently no object. But the magistrates who this week slapped former bank employee Jerome Kerviel with an inane order to repay $6.7 billion only deepened suspicion that the so-called “rogue trader” was a fall guy for executives who were all smiles while his high-risk bets were paying off. The order came along with a three-year prison sentence for Kerviel, whose massive risk-taking led to a $6.9-billion loss for the French bank Société Générale. Based on his current salary of $3,150 a month as a computer consultant, it will take Kerviel 177,536 years to pay the money back (he’s banned, after all, from working in finance). “I have the feeling,” concluded defence lawyer Olivier Metzner, “Jerome Kerviel is paying for an entire system.”

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night
Former GG Michaëlle Jean is not the only one to make an exit; two other high-profile figures bid farewell this week. Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu’s 79th birthday this month marks the perfect time to retire from public life. He’s earned the break, given he formally retired in 1996 but has kept emeritus status ever since, lecturing internationally on issues such as racism, homophobia and poverty. And Rahm Emanuel, who put in enough time as Barack Obama’s chief of staff to run for mayor of Chicago (rules permitting), extended the White House an unexpectedly emotional goodbye, which was promptly parodied by a ruthless Andy Samberg the next day on Saturday Night Live.

Speaking of punchlines
Silvio Berlusconi appears to be testing the patience of even the most dedicated practitioners of forgiveness. The Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has come out swinging against the Italian PM after he made what it called “deplorable” jokes. Just days after cracking wise about Hitler at a youth rally late last month, Berlusconi was caught telling supporters a joke depicting Jews as greedy. And video emerged of an earlier incident in which the PM poked fun at the appearance of an opposition MP with a joke that used a famous Italian curse as a punchline. Berlusconi has responded to his critics by blaming them for publicizing his bad taste in humour.

Lil Wayne, big house
He went to prison in March on gun charges, and now rapper Lil Wayne is off to solitary confinement on New York’s Rikers Island for hiding contraband iPod parts. Lil Wayne, a.k.a. Dwayne Carter, will likely spend the remaining month of his sentence in an isolation cell after guards caught him with an MP3 charger and headphones. (Another inmate was found with the MP3 player.) There is an upside to his behind-bars devotion to music. Last month he released his ninth album, I Am Not A Human Being, currently one of the most purchased albums on iTunes.

Oops, did I say that out loud?
Google CEO Eric Schmidt is keenly aware of grumblings about privacy in light of his company’s growing bank of information about its users. “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it,” he said last week when asked how Google might use that information. Implanting a chip in Google users, for instance, would cross the “creepy line,” according to Schmidt. Instead, Google’s vision of the future is one in which it already “[knows] where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” Wait, what was that about not being creepy?

The lady doth protest too little
Never one to keep quiet, Susan Sarandon is discussing her breakup with Tim Robbins after 23 years of unwedded bliss. The actor-political activist told the Telegraph, “People were coming up to me in the street and saying, ‘I cried and cried when I heard.’ Well, I was sadder! I didn’t think it would ever happen, either.” Sarandon, 63, is rumoured to be dating Jonathan Bricklin, 31—with whom she owns a New York Ping-Pong nightclub—though she’s coy about that: “There are lots of people in my life at the moment.”

Put the rum in rum pum pum pum
Shane MacGowan may have fallen from grace with God, but three singing clerics are giving the erstwhile Pogues front man a shot at redemption. MacGowan—famous for his rotted-out teeth and round-the-clock boozing—has recorded a version of Little Drummer Boy with The Priests, a trio of singing Catholic ministers from Northern Ireland. Weaving their silky harmonies around MacGowan’s slurred lament can’t have been easy. There are many who had written off Celtic punk’s crown prince: “He has not recorded a song recently because it wouldn’t be any good,” said Steve Lillywhite, who produced some of the Pogues’ best recordings. Still, Brits have a holiday-time penchant for blasts from the past. MacGowan could well wind up with enough cash to drink himself back to obscurity.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *