Newsmakers -


Hobbits on a plane, Rob Ford’s transit trouble and No Doubt’s native controversy



Yes, doubt

The pop music group No Doubt is in trouble for playing the old game of cowboys and Indians. The video for the band’s new song, Looking Hot, featured lead singer Gwen Stefani dressed up in Native American garb and dancing around a teepee, playing a sexy Pocahontas-like princess who gets rescued from two menacing cowboys. The video received so many complaints from Native American groups objecting to the appropriation of their culture that the band pulled the video and apologized. Their intention was “never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture or their history,” the band said.

An American first

Rochelle Ballantyne’s grandma taught her how to play chess when she was in the third grade. Now, the 17-year-old is on track to become the first African-American female chess master. Ballantyne, a graduate of Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, where more than 60 per cent of students live below the poverty line, is heading into the National K-12 Championship in Florida, which opens Nov. 30. Ballantyne, who is often seen listening to her iPod while playing chess, says her grandma, now deceased, remains her motivation. “She introduced me to the idea of being the first African-American female chess master,” Ballantyne told Teen Vogue. “I really have to reach that goal for her.”

Elfin safety

The Kiwi reputation for quirkiness is on full display in a new safety video released by Air New Zealand. In what is one of the most unusual movie marketing tie-ins for Peter Jackson’s upcoming film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the nation’s most famous director stuffed a Boeing 777 full of characters from Middle Earth, including Gollum, elves, dwarves and hobbits (whose big, hairy feet barely fit beneath the seats in front of them) to explain how to use life jackets, oxygen masks and other safety features. As with his Lord of the Rings creations, Jackson himself appears in the video, picking up the “one ring”—“my precious”—before vanishing from view. Already watched more than seven million times on YouTube, more than the population of New Zealand itself, the video is the airline’s latest oddball safety video. Others have featured aerobics guru Richard Simmons and even the nation’s ferociously tough All Blacks rugby team. 14, and already a master He weighs 125 lb. and uses a controversial belly putter to drain his birdies. But China’s Guan Tianlang, age 14, will nevertheless tee off against the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy at next year’s Masters, becoming the youngest player in tournament history. Guan earned a coveted spot at Augusta—and a chance at the green jacket—after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur in Bangkok this week. “I’m so excited,” the teen said after his one-stroke victory. Tianlang is the second 14-year-old from China to appear in a major after Andy Zhang qualified for this year’s U.S. Open.

Race to be the first gay premier

In the wake of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s messy exit—and with opposition parties poised to bring down the government whenever the legislature returns—leadership of the Ontario Liberal party would not seem to be the nicest prize in the political world. But the chance to be premier, even if it’s only for a few weeks, has attracted some prominent contenders. Cabinet ministers Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne (both of whom, coincidentally, are openly gay) were the first to declare. Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg, is promising tax breaks. Wynne could be positioned to attack the McGuinty record from the left. Former cabinet ministers Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy might soon launch their own candidacies; if so, the Liberals might at least have an interesting leadership race before being banished to the opposition benches.

Producer meets reboot

Michael Jacobs, creator of the hit ’90s sitcom Boy Meets World, is planning to reboot the show for a new generation of snarky, neurotic kids. The veteran sitcom producer announced this week that he is in talks with the Disney Channel to create Girl Meets World, the story of the preteen daughter of Boy Meets World leads Topanga and Cory, played by Ben Savage, the younger brother of The Wonder Years star Fred. The network wants the original cast members to reprise their roles. Jacobs also created hits like My Two Dads and Dinosaurs, but hasn’t brought a new show on the air in almost a decade, and is trying to break back into television after writing a play that flopped on Broadway.

This Bud’s not for you

Budweiser isn’t happy that Denzel Washington’s alcoholic pilot character in the movie Flight downs Bud, his beer of choice. In fact, parent company Anheuser-Busch is asking Paramount Pictures Corp. to remove the brand entirely. “We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving,” said vice-president Rob McCarthy. But legal experts said Paramount didn’t need Bud’s permission: trademark laws “don’t exist to give companies the right to control and censor movies that might happen to include real-world items,” Daniel Nazer, a resident fellow at Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project, told AP.

Bettman finds an ally

Don Cherry has called it: there is little hope of an NHL season this year. “If I’m betting, I’d say no,” the Hockey Night in Canada host said during an interview with CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway. “If this goes after Jan. 1, we might have it gone for the whole season,” Cherry said. But fans shouldn’t blame NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for the lockout, Cherry said. He placed the blame squarely on the owners. “They had a vote at the start, and 30 owners said, ‘Yes, lockout’—it wasn’t Bettman.”

Attacking Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered the country’s military to prepare to attack Iran two years ago, only to be opposed by the country’s top security officials, according to an Israeli news channel. The report, which aired this week, alleges that during a 2010 meeting with senior ministers, Netanyahu told Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, then head of the Israeli Defence Forces, to “set the systems for P-plus,” signalling an attack could soon commence. According to Channel 2’s Uvda show, Ashkenazi warned that Israel’s enemies would notice such a move and might respond in a way that would lead to war. Meir Dagan, then chief of the Mossad spy agency, said Netanyahu and Barak were trying to “steal” a decision to go to war without the formal approval of cabinet.

Seven-year-old hero

When Evan Raap’s grandfather pulled his minivan over to the side of the road in Chilliwack, B.C., then slumped in the driver’s seat, the seven-year-old knew something was wrong. So he grabbed his grandpa’s cellphone and dialled 911. “I’m worried,” he told the operator. “He’s not talking and he’s really sweating.” In a 13-minute call, Evan described their location to police, directing officers by reading nearby road signs. Evan’s parents, who’d tried to limit his exposure to cellphones, are marvelling that he was able to dial for help: the iPhone was locked with a password, but he managed to bypass this using an “emergency call” feature they didn’t even know existed. George Epp, 67, apparently fainted from pain after a disc ruptured in his back, and is now recovering. Evan’s being hailed as a hero in B.C., and got to drop the puck at a recent AHL hockey game between the Abbotsford Heat and the Toronto Marlies.

Pidgin and pomp

For those who didn’t recognize the heir to the throne, Prince Charles introduced himself in Papua New Guinea this week as nambawan pikinini bilong misis kwin—pidgin English for the first-born son of Her Majesty the Queen. Charles and his wife, Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, were in the Commonwealth nation for a Diamond Jubilee visit. The government even paved a few of the realm’s notoriously bad roads for the official motorcade and hosted a reception complete with masked, mud-smeared warriors and topless dancers.

Yet another bad week

Rob Ford’s love of football and Toronto’s general frustration with public transit collided last week. Riders aboard two city buses were kicked off into the rain so the vehicles could be dispatched to shelter members of the mayor’s football team from the cold after a game was called early due to an altercation. Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford said he had “no idea that two buses were used nor that customers were inconvenienced.”

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