Newsmakers of the week -

Newsmakers of the week

An open letter to Ann Coulter, a book for Pippa Middleton, and Berlusconi’s very bad week


Petros Karadjias/AP

And she’s the published author?

John Franklin Stephens didn’t take kindly to conservative author Ann Coulter’s use of the word “retard” in an insult hurled at President Barack Obama, so he did something about it. Stephens, 30, a Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome, wrote an eloquent open letter to Coulter. “After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.” He added that someone described using the “R-word” is likely bullied in school, struggles “with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means [being] dumb and shallow,” and is “likely to receive bad health care, live in low-grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.” It’s not the first time Stephens has spoken up for people with intellectual disabilities. He penned an editorial for the Denver Post, speaking against the film Tropic Thunder, which repeatedly used the term “retard” as an insult.

Encore, encore!

Garth Drabinsky loves big, epic theatre, and he provided some of his own when he gave a tear-drenched public apology for the fraud that sent him to prison. The producer, who is serving out his conviction for cooking the books on the theatrical production company Livent Inc., appeared at a hearing where the board granted him day parole. He burst into tears when he recalled that he had been threatened with the revocation of his Order of Canada, awarded to him when he was Canada’s leading theatre impresario. Drabinsky isn’t the only Canadian convicted of fraud who doesn’t want to give up his Order of Canada: Conrad Black, taking time off from being belligerent on talk shows, asked the Supreme Court to let him appear before the Order of Canada advisory council and make a personal plea to be allowed to keep his prize. The Supreme Court said no.

On a more Swede note

Princess Madeleine of Sweden is engaged to her Prince Charming, Chris O’Neill, an Anglo-American financier based in New York. This isn’t the first time the royal has accepted a marriage proposal. Her previous engagement, to blond Swedish lawyer Jonas Bergstrom, crashed and burned spectacularly after tabloid revelations from a 21-year-old student about her affair with Bergstrom, who had been dating the princess for seven years. Madeleine quickly dumped him and fled to New York to escape the paparazzi. There she devoted herself to philanthropic causes, went from being a blond to a brunette and met O’Neill—who shared her new hair colour. The couple is planning a wedding next summer in Sweden.

He just needed the right uniform

When the Major League Baseball season began last March, Marco Scutaro, a journeyman infielder with previous stops in New York, Oakland, Toronto and Boston, was the starting second baseman for the mediocre Colorado Rockies. But on July 27, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants and then, suddenly, everything changed. Scutaro posted an incredible .362 batting average for the Giants as San Francisco ran away with their division. He then hit an otherwordly .500 in the National League Championship Series as the Giants rallied to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals. And on Sunday night, it was Scutaro who singled home the winning run in the tenth inning as the Giants clinched their second World Series title in three years, in a four-game sweep over Detroit. “There’s so many feelings going through me right now,” Scutaro told the San Jose Mercury News afterwards. “It’s just overwhelming. It’s unbelievable.”

A babe amid arms

Two-year-old Bushr Al Tawashi was lost in the confusion as his family fled their Damascus home during the shelling of Syria’s capital last July. His grief-stricken parents assumed their abandoned son was either killed by the artillery, or died alone amid the rubble. But little Bushr was discovered by rebel fighters and handed over to another family, who took care of him until he was reunited with his parents this week in Cyprus. A rare happy ending in a country riddled with tragedy.

Pippa’s tips

When Pippa Middleton, sister of Kate, duchess of Cambridge, launched her party-planning guide, Celebrate, there seemed more attention paid to her outfits—she had four complete dress changes that day as she went from event to event—than her book. There was little else to focus on given she wasn’t granting interviews, and her book is a rather simplistic guide that features a startling number of pictures of the author, for which she got an estimated $650,000 advance. Middleton acknowledged in the book that she wasn’t being feted for her literary prowess: “It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of 30, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom.”

Capturing the vampire vote

In the most shocking celebrity endorsement video of the year, Joss Whedon came out for Mitt Romney—sort of. The deadpan writer-director of The Avengers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer announced that Romney’s policies on issues like war and health care have what it takes to bring about “the zombie apocalypse,” and that the Republican candidate is the perfect choice for a world of undead brain-eaters because that’s how he already sees poor people. The video hasn’t provoked nearly as much controversy as Lena Dunham’s similarly sly ad for Barack Obama, all about wanting her “first time” (at the polls) to be with a really great guy. Which may be further proof that talking about brain-eating is more socially acceptable than talking about sex.

Following in the Biebs’s steps

They may be the youngest faces at the Grand Ole Opry. Lennon Stella, 13, and her eight-year-old sister Maisy, first shot to fame after their rendition of Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend aired on YouTube in May. They now appear on the hit TV show Nashville, where they sang for the first time on camera last week, earning rave reviews. Lennon and Maisy grew up in Whitby, Ont., and moved to Nashville in 2009 with their parents, country singers Marylynne and Brad Stella, to pursue music careers. Their Robyn song now has nearly 10 million views, and even Rolling Stone deemed them “adorable.”

A woman for all seasons

Olympic hurdler Lori “Lolo” Jones says on her Twitter feed that she’s “diversifying her resumé.” That’s because the track star, who finished fourth at the London Olympics and seventh in Beijing, is one of 24 athletes newly named to the U.S. bobsled team, giving her a chance to compete at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. She isn’t the first track athlete to be recruited to push a sled—a job that requires strength and speed—but given that Jones was criticized by some as an overhyped media darling this summer, she may soon suffer from overexposure. Jones also plans to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Thankfully it’s no longer the ’70s

Paul Gadd, better known as the ’70s rock star Gary Glitter, is the first celebrity to be taken into custody in connection with Scotland Yard’s child sex-abuse investigation involving the late BBC host Jimmy Savile. Glitter, who was convicted last year of committing obscene acts with 10- and 11-year old girls in Vietnam, was the first Savile guest to be implicated in the scandal, but he may not be the last: veteran publicist and friend of the British tabloids Max Clifford told the AFP that he’s heard from stars who are worried that they’ll be in trouble because back in the ’70s, they “never asked for anybody’s birth certificate.”

Also, he had some parking tickets

Given the escalation in salacious scandals surrounding Italy’s former prime minister—from the “bunga bunga” orgy parties to accusations he paid erotic dancer Karima El Mahroug (then underage) for sex and tried to cover it up—it’s rather anti-climactic that Silvio Berlusconi’s first-ever conviction resulted from a crime as pedestrian as tax fraud. A Milan court handed down the four-year jail sentence last week (later reduced to one year), along with a five-year ban on holding public office—although it’s doubtful Berlusconi will spend time behind bars, thanks to a drawn-out appeal process. The 76-year-old’s sex trial continues.

Gangnam Style!

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei became the latest unlikely figure to parody Korean pop king Psy’s international chart-topper Gangnam Style. With his video—Grass-Mud Horse Style—Weiwei joins some other unexpected Psy imitators, from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge.

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