This week: Newsmakers

The Donald for prez in 2012?

by Ken MacQueen, Colby Cosh and Maclean's staff

Leave it to Bieber—or else

Surprise Best New Artist winner Esperanza Spalding discovered the downside to beating out a shoo-in at the Grammys. The jazz singer’s voluminous hair did little to endear her to vengeful Justin Bieber fans, who edited her Wikipedia page to paint a curious picture: her middle name is Justin—no, Quesadilla; she is (to paraphrase) mentally challenged, and she should die in a hole. The Bieb was more gracious, congratulating his rival warmly when he ran into her backstage. Still, Spalding may have more in common with a Canadian act that fared better that night: Arcade Fire. She sang at Barack Obama’s White House, while the Montreal indie darlings played shows for his presidential campaign.

Newsmakers

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Hair today, who knows tomorrow

Donald Trump electrified the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, speculating in a surprise appearance about a Republican run for the presidency. “We need a competitive person,” Trump told a divided audience. “If I run and if I win, this country will be respected again.” The real estate mogul laid out an anti-gun-control, anti-Obamacare stance, adding a pro-life element that has only recently become a feature of his political bloviations. He also provoked supporters of conservatives’ perennial favourite, libertarian congressman Ron Paul, by remarking that “Paul cannot get elected. Sorry.” Trump says he will make his final decision on whether to run in June.

Newsmakers

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

You can’t go home

When former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf announced he was returning from a self-imposed exile to possibly run for office, he faced a Catch-22: he’d either suffer an assassination attempt by al-Qaeda or arrest for treason. Now there’s another obstacle: a warrant for his arrest in connection with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. On Saturday, a Pakistani court said an investigation revealed Musharraf did not provide adequate protection for the former PM in 2007 as she campaigned against him for the presidency. Musharraf, who denies any involvement, allegedly knew of plans to kill her but failed to alert authorities. Bhutto, of course, was killed by al-Qaeda weeks after her own return following years in self-imposed exile.

Madoff makes good?

A victim of Montreal fraudster Earl Jones has launched the first individual suit against RBC Dominion Securities. Barbara Macleod is part of a $40-million class action suit against RBC, but she’s also suing the firm separately for $1.5 million, saying it “enabled, assisted and sustained” Jones. Meanwhile, Jones’s spiritual big brother south of the border, Bernie Madoff, may be coming through for his former clients, despite his worst intentions. Irving Picard, the man charged with recovering some of the lost millions that Madoff’s victims invested, has US$10 billion in hand. And he’s suing banks and other parties to the tune of US$100 billion. So some of that cash could wind up going to the victims after all.

Newsmakers

David Levenson/Getty Images

Down with wusses!

After improving school lunches and fighting the obesity epidemic, Jamie Oliver has found a new target for his social crusading: today’s “embarrassingly wet” youth. “You get their mommies phoning up and saying, ‘He’s too tired, you’re working him too hard,’ ” says Oliver, who’s seen the wussiness first-hand when hiring staff for his restaurants. So the British celebrity chef has set out to reform 16- to 20-year-olds on his latest TV project, Jamie’s Dream School. Celebrity teachers—from Cherie Blair to actor Simon Callow—will take a zero-tolerance attitude and try to inspire 20 high school dropouts in an old London schoolhouse. Let’s hope Jamie’s just as tough on his own brood: his son Buddy Bear, and daughters Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, and Petal Blossom Rainbow.

Why, in Ontario, we walk on water

Prime Minister Stephen Harper let Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant sink like a stone after she enraged Newfoundlanders by saying they were too reliant on the coast guard for rescue. Gallant, an MP from Ontario, delivered her lecture on self-reliance during a parliamentary hearing on search-and-rescue response times. She claimed boaters on the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River don’t count on the coast guard, a statement the St. John’s Telegram called “degrading, insulting and wrong.” She apologized in the Commons Thursday, but Harper, hoping to rescue Tory election chances in the province, told Fred Hutton of Newfoundland’s NTV News Gallant’s remarks were “completely unacceptable and quite frankly incomprehensible.”

Newsmakers

Ian Walton/GETTY IMA Walsh/AP

Tiger spits out an apology

Tiger Woods marked the first anniversary of his apology for serial philandering with another “I’m sorry”—this time for spitting during Sunday’s final round of the Dubai Desert Classic. Officials fined him an undisclosed amount for watering the 12th green. “It was inconsiderate to spit like that,” Woods said later. Spitting is an art form in baseball, but an affront in golf. While golfer Woods was acting badly, actor Bill Murray was golfing, well, goodly. The Caddyshack star teamed up with professional D.A. Points to win the pro-am PGA tournament at Pebble Beach, Calif. “I think I can die now,” said Murray.

Fried chicken: the other Afghan war

He runs a fried-chicken business in New York City with five locations and a secret recipe, and Afghan entrepreneur Abdul Haye is a little cheesed off that rivals (most of them Afghans) keep stealing his idea and opening KFCs. That’s KFC as in Kennedy Fried Chicken. Kennedy faced its own trademark infringement suit at one point, as one can imagine, but got to keep the name. Now he’s sent out 300 letters to other Kennedy Fried Chickens asking them to pony up the franchise fee or shut down. “Their poor-quality chicken is going to kill my reputation,” he told the New York Times. “I am the only real Kennedy!” Other Kennedy owners demurred, and Zia Taeb, a gem merchant who says he started the chain in the ’70s, scoffed, “He won’t win because I know my people, and Afghans will never pay him.” He added, “I will go after him.”

Newsmakers

Mary Altaffer/AP

Wild Oats, indeed

The wholesome image of Sunflower Farmers Market, an Arizona-based natural foods chain, has taken a bruising with the arrest of its founding CEO on child prostitution charges. Michael C. Gilliland, 52, resigned last weekend after his arrest in a police sting. Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said Gilliland went to a city hotel expecting to have paid sex with a girl who identified herself on the Internet as 17 years old. The girl didn’t exist. Gilliland has vowed to fight the charges. He started his first food chain, Wild Oats Markets, in 1987. Sunflower, with stores across the southern U.S., bills itself as a cheaper alternative to rival Whole Foods.

The Earl takes a wife

It may be coincidence, but news of the engagement of Charles Spencer—better known as the brother of Princess Di—came just a day after Prince William, reportedly not close to his uncle, said his six cousins, including Lady Amelia (expected in court over a row at a McDonald’s in Cape Town, South Africa), would not be in the royal bridal party. The twice-divorced ninth Earl Spencer will marry Canadian philanthropist and former model Karen Gordon on June 18, weeks after William’s wedding—all the better to share the spotlight.

Well, she is called Gabby

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is singing and talking in basic sentences as she continues a remarkable recovery after being shot in the head on Jan. 8. She started talking last week, during intensive rehab in Houston. Her husband, Mark Kelly, told NBC News her speech therapist wants her to slow down “and make sure she hears the question first before giving the answer.” On Sunday, Kelly put his wife on the phone to his brother, fellow astronaut Scott Kelly, aboard the International Space Station. “Hi, I’m good,” she said. Doctors caution against being too optimistic, but her mother Gloria Giffords is upbeat. “Little Miss Overachiever is healing very fast,” she said.

Newsmakers

Ian Walton/GETTY IMA Walsh/AP

The family that schemes together

Less than a year after he led Canada’s Paralympic curling team to a gold medal win, Jim Armstrong got a different kind of award: he was fined US$30,000 by a Seattle court for his role in a scheme selling fake Viagra and Cialis across the border. “You are a trained medical professional,” Justice Ricardo Martinez told him. “You knew better.” A court will decide in April if Armstrong must also pay restitution to the drug companies. His son and partner in crime, Gregory, fared worse: he was sentenced to a year plus a day in jail, and a fine of US$5,000.

The 100-year diet

Has Catherine Reddoch discovered the secret of eternal youth? The bright-eyed resident of Matamata, New Zealand, will turn 101 in May, and she has eaten the same lunch every day since 1988, shortly before her husband’s death: a McDonald’s cheeseburger and hot chocolate. Reddoch, using a walker, makes the one-kilometre trek to the McD’s every day, places the same order, and sits at the same table to watch the world go by. On Saturdays, she moves on to an off-track betting parlour to put NZ$10 on a horse. The restaurant added a plaque to “Cat’s Corner” in honour of its best customer.

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