Newsmakers: April 21-28, 2011

The Donald’s shameful secret, Bill Gates gets a piece of Canadiana, and Alaska’s first official pooper scooper



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Vote as I say, not as I vote
The man who’s considering running for the Republican primary presidential nomination has been accused of failing to cast a ballot in similar elections for more than two decades. According to the New York City Board of Elections, Donald Trump voted in the 1989 New York City mayoral race, then didn’t make it to a polling station for a primary for 21 years. Trump denied the reports, but wasted no time continuing his tirade against another man’s personal records—Barack Obama’s birth certificate. After Robert De Niro suggested the real estate mogul should check his facts on the citizenship issue, The Donald fired back, saying De Niro “is not the brightest bulb on the planet.”
The Pope will now take questions
One of religion’s primary challenges may still be explaining the problem of evil, but its platform for doing so has expanded. For the Vatican’s inaugural “Question Time” TV broadcast on Good Friday—a first in the Catholic Church’s history—Pope Benedict XVI answered seven questions, selected from more than 3,000, all of them about suffering. The Pontiff responded to an Italian mother wondering about her comatose son’s soul, a Muslim woman in Ivory Coast asking how to end violence in her country, and a Japanese child asking why so many of her peers have to suffer through natural disasters. He served up all kinds of popely wisdom, but had to pause at the Japanese girl’s query. “I also have the same questions,” he admitted. “And we do not have the answers, but we know that Jesus suffered as you do…and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side.”

This much you can say of Russia
After getting swept out of the NHL playoffs, Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov responded to rumours his financially troubled team might relocate to Winnipeg next season. “You don’t want to go to Winnipeg, right?” the 30-year-old Russian said. It’s cold and there is “no park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It’s going to be tough life for your family,” he added. That characterization of Winnipeg prompted the city’s mayor, Sam Katz, this week to offer to pay to fly the goalie to Winnipeg to show him there are indeed parks in the Prairies. “When he sees the variety of culture, arts and sports, and all the activities in our wonderful city, he might have a completely different opinion,” Katz told the Winnipeg Sun. Bryzgalov nevertheless has said if his only option is to play NHL hockey in the Peg, he’d rather go home to Russia where it’s also cold, but at least everyone speaks Russian.
Arnold for president?
He made a smooth transition from Hollywood stardom to two terms as the “Governator” of California, and now Arnold Schwarzenegger may take the European Union presidency as his next coup. His former chief of staff Terry Tamminen told Newsweek, “In the next few years, the EU will be looking for a much more high-profile president—somebody who can unify Europe.” He went on to suggest “a European-born person who went off to America” could return to act as “the Washington or Jefferson of a new unified Europe.” Tamminen has advised Schwarzenegger to try for the job next spring, when the next EU president will be chosen. Though Schwarzenegger did not comment, his wife, Maria Shriver, said: “No matter what Arnold decides to do, I’m sure he’ll have fun doing it, and it will have impact.”
Let them eat sea salt
Only in Mexico, where seashores draw people from around the world, could putting a beach smack dab in the centre of a city be seen as a populist project. Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City, is being accused of trying to gain support for his candidacy in the 2012 presidential election by installing “urban beaches” in the megalopolis, where people can play volleyball and splash around for free. Ebrard says he’s just trying to create safe public spaces for Mexicans—at the cost of $600,000 per year. Critics are not convinced, however. Political columnist Rafael Cardona told Al Jazeera, “He brings you the illusion that you have Acapulco within one block of your home. But your home has no water supply, no good transportation, no public schools available, no quality of education, no nothing.”
A Kate closer to home
The timing of Emmylou Harris’s newly released song Darlin’ Kate may leave a certain royal consort-to-be thinking she’s being immortalized in music. But the Kate in question is Harris’s good friend, the late Montreal folksinger Kate McGarrigle. The performers met in the 1970s, when they recorded with the same record label, and they were frequent collaborators. Last year, the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright lost a battle to cancer, and since then, says Harris, “I really do miss Kate a lot.” In the piano song on her new album, Hard Bargain, she sings: “If there was one name I could consecrate / It would be yours, it would be Kate.”
You can dance if you wants to
Call him Disco Medvedev. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has become a YouTube sensation since a video of him wiggling robotically to the Soviet-era hit American Boy attracted nearly four million hits. Wearing a trim blue jacket and jeans, the leader of one of the world’s nuclear powers seemed relaxed as he swayed and clapped to the music at a private party. Natalya Timakova, a Kremlin spokeswoman, was not so amused by the incident. She said the video showed a lack of respect for privacy and believed a caterer at the event shot the footage clandestinely.
A very special blast-off
Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who suffered a bullet wound to the head when a gunman opened fire at a political event in Tucson, has seen her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, go into space twice before: first, in 2006, when they were dating, and then in 2008, shortly after she went to Congress. On Friday, it’ll be different. She’s still in rehabilitation, and needed clearance to attend the event from the team of health professionals who are caring for her. She’ll also be joined at the Kennedy Space Center by family, friends, even Barack Obama. She’s just relearning how to talk, but Kelly told Katie Couric that when his wife learned she could attend the launch, “I think she said, ‘awesome,’ and she pumped her fist.”
Schoolhouse rock
Step aside, Susan Boyle. A 35-year-old Glaswegian, Edward Reid, brought memories of the churchgoing cat lady when he went viral for an oddly winning compilation of nursery rhymes on Britain’s Got Talent. The drama teacher-turned-singer cooed such childhood classics as Old MacDonald, If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to the soulful tune of Snow Patrol’s ballad Run. The crowd screeched with delight and judges were impressed, including David Hasselhoff, who remarked, “Jack and Jill will never be the same.” Since the weekend, though, Reid’s been embroiled in the kind of controversy fast fame can bring: a British cabaret duo, Frisky and Mannish, have said he stole the idea for his performance from their act.
Changing the world one scoop at a time
Maggie Stern, a hairdresser in Haines, Alaska, is definitely a glass-half-full woman. After she lost her sense of smell following a skating injury, she decided to volunteer doing something folks with working olfactory systems would revile: pooper scooping. As the Chilkat Valley News put it, she travels with an ice scraper and trowel, “prospecting for nuggets left behind by the town’s dogs during winter.” Stern felt it was “penance” for not cleaning up all her dog’s doo-doo, but she plans to stop after collecting 10 gallons. Cleaning up the town may encourage other residents to make an effort, she said. “It may show a little bit more that people care. One pile of poop does make a difference.”
World’s biggest nerd gets world’s biggest train set
If you want to go straight to the top to complain about late delivery of your rail shipment of wood pellets, try Bill Gates. Though it’s well-known the American billionaire has his finger in many investment pies, from nuclear reactor technology to treatment for HIV through his charitable foundation, he’s now also the biggest shareholder in the Montreal-based Canadian National Railway. According to disclosures from the company, as of Feb. 25, the world’s second-richest man owns or controls 10.04 per cent of its shares.
A few reminders of her career
Where better to reflect on the meaning of life than in a morgue? Lindsay Lohan, the troubled actress who seems to spend a lot of time in courtrooms these days, has been sentenced to 480 hours of community service for violating her probation—a portion of which will be served doing janitorial work at the L.A. County coroner’s office. “She won’t be handling any dead bodies, but she’ll certainly see them,” assistant chief coroner Ed Winter told People magazine. She’ll also see floors that need cleaning and waste bins that need emptying.


Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

She’s mum on the subject

Just when Carla Bruni said she can see herself playing a political role beyond being French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s arm candy, she’s been put on baby bump alert. The Élysée has been mum about the rumoured pregnancy, while Le Figaro, Le Journal du Dimanche, Le Parisien et al. all report she’s expecting a second child. (Her first, Aurelien, with philosophy prof Raphaël Enthoven, was born in 2001.) But if this knocks her feud with Alessandra Mussolini off the news, maybe she won’t mind.

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