Newsmakers of the week

Sonia Sotomayor hits Sesame Street, Robert Mugabe is the new Cecil Rhodes, plus a king-in-not-waiting

Lukas Coch / Reuters

The full-bore FAQ

The royal family still feeds Prince Charles now that he’s 64—just not seven eggs at breakfast, as per popular myth. That and other long-held beliefs about the Prince of Wales were laid to rest this week in an FAQ released by Clarence House on the occasion of Charles’s birthday, as part of the royals’ ongoing effort to put a more normal face on their sometimes remote heir. He doesn’t duck taxes, advocate use of dangerous alternative therapies or loathe modern architecture, according to officials. And he doesn’t spend any—repeat, any—time thinking about being king. All of which is too bad: those were things that made him interesting.

Now, put that wand away

No sooner is Barack Obama re-elected than his first Supreme Court appointee is out spreading his radical anti-princess agenda. Sonia Sotomayor appeared on Sesame Street to confront a pink muppet named Abby who was dressed as a Disney-style princess, telling her that pretending to be a princess “is definitely not a career,” and encouraging girls to be “a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer and even a scientist” instead. But her profession hasn’t been very helpful to Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who plays Elmo on the iconic kids’ show. He took a leave of absence after being accused of sexual misconduct, an accusation that was then recanted in a statement by the accuser’s law firm. Maybe he’d be happier if more people became princesses, not lawyers.

Diamonds on the soles of his shoes

Zimbabwe’s Marange fields are among the world’s most lucrative diamond deposits. But a Canadian watchdog group says Zimbabwe’s diamond trade has mainly been lucrative for a band of military generals and police loyal to President Robert Mugabe. Partnership Africa Canada says as much as $2 billion in proceeds from diamond sales has gone missing since 2008 in “perhaps the biggest single plunder of diamonds the world has seen since [British colonialist and De Beers founder] Cecil Rhodes.” Instead of flowing into the state treasury to pay for education, medicine and infrastructure, the group says the diamond money went to build mansions and pay for luxury cars for high-powered government supporters, into the pockets of foreign Mugabe sympathizers, and into a war chest for Mugabe’s re-election campaign, which could prove devastating to his opponent, PM Morgan Tsvangirai. “The scale of illegality is mind-blowing,” the watchdog says, adding the activities have fed into “most of the diamond markets of the world.” Mugabe spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed the allegations as “pure madness.”

A millionaire on the run

John McAfee, who is no average millionaire, turns out to be no average fugitive, either. The American anti-virus software pioneer did an interview Monday even as police searched for him for questioning after the murder of an American man who lived next door to McAfee’s island mansion off Belize. He told Wired magazine he evaded officers by burying himself in sand, with a cardboard box over his head so he could breathe. “It was extraordinarily uncomfortable,” the 67-year-old said. “But [the police] will kill me if they find me.” McAfee moved four years ago to Belize, having sold his eponymous company for $100 million, and by many accounts descended into gun-obsessed paranoia. In addition to his island mansion, he built a compound in the country’s interior, where he reportedly kept a stock of weapons and five security guards—as well as local girls for company. McAfee reportedly had a falling out with the dead man, 52-year-old Gregory Faull of Florida, but denied responsibility in Faull’s shooting death.

They missed the Kodak era

In a busy marriage, you just let some things slide. Wu Conghan, 101, and his wife Wu Sognshi, 103, for instance, just got around to having their wedding pictures snapped—some 88 years after they were wed. There were few cameras in Sichuan, China, in 1924. So, like many couples, they sealed their vows without a photographic record. But the centenarians posed recently for a collective of local photographers offering wedding portraits to seniors, Sognshi wearing white and clutching a bouquet of red roses. Then they scrolled through the images on a laptop.

Life begins at 80

Canada’s already intimate club of billionaire financiers just got a little smaller this week. Magna International founder Frank Stronach announced at 80 years old that he was quitting the company board to focus on building a new political party in his native Austria. Also making an exit is activist investor Stephen Jarislowsky, who turned 87 in September, and announced this week he would retire after 57 years as CEO of $40-billion investment firm Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd. Often touted as the Warren Buffett of Canada, Jarislowsky will stay on as chairman and let a four-person executive committee run the company. As for the real Warren Buffett, 82, he revealed earlier this year that he had finally chosen his successor, but would keep the name a secret for now. Whoever it is will have to wait awhile. Buffet told a conference of business school students this month that he has no plans to retire and still “tap dances to work” every day.

Before God came along

When the Right Rev. Justin Welby was named the archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Church, observers praised his even-handedness and his friendly demeanour. But mostly they praised what is being called his “real world” experience, a rarity among the clergy. Before leaving for the priesthood in the late 1980s, Welby was a rising oil executive, a treasurer for British exploration firm Enterprise Oil PLC. Since being made a bishop only a year ago, he has been an outspoken finance critic and served on a parliamentary committee investigating banking ethics. In his first press conference as archbishop, he pledged support for ordaining women. PM David Cameron lauded Welby, saying “someone who had a life outside the church in business, who understands difficult, complicated issues, will bring a great breath of fresh air to the Church of England.”

Read his lips: yes to new taxes!

Is William Kristol the canary in the coal mine when it comes to tax reform? The editor of the Weekly Standard, a major force in the conservative movement, encouraged Republicans to break their no-new-taxes pledge and accept Obama’s offer to raise taxes only on wealthy people: “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires,” he said delicately. He’s not the only one urging the party to be a little more open-minded for the sake of its own survival: former George W. Bush aide Karen Hughes said that if another Republican says something stupid about rape, “I want to personally cut out his tongue,” and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.” But Kristol provided a special incentive for wavering Republicans, pointing out that a lot of millionaires “voted Democratic, and half of them live in Hollywood.” If there’s a way to get Republicans to change their minds on tax cuts, it’s to tell them it’s a way to punish liberals.

Oh no you don’t, LiLo

Lindsay Lohan has made some poor choices, but Barbara Walters thinks the worst choice of all was choosing Jay Leno instead of her. The poster girl for troubled starlets filmed part of an interview for 20/20, but then cancelled an appointment to complete the interview, with her people saying only that she wasn’t “up to it.” When Walters learned Lohan had booked an appearance on The Tonight Show instead, she went public with her feelings of betrayal, saying on The View that Lohan told her that “whenever she did an interview, she’d do it with me.” She added that Lohan will regret it, oh, yes she will: “To go on Jay Leno and be adorable and amusing, there’s still all the problems.” Barbara Walters won’t be ignored.

If he says it, it’s got to be true

After he correctly predicted the winner of the presidential election in all 50 U.S. states, Nate Silver has become more than just another election prognosticator: he’s a full-fledged meme industry. The most popular Silver-related game on Twitter is “Drunk Nate Silver,” where people imagine how Silver would use his powers of prognostication when intoxicated: “Drunk Nate Silver is riding the subway telling strangers the day they will die,” wrote Brooklyn-based consultant Dan Levitan in the meme’s most popular tweet. Silver responded to the meme by saying that when he is drunk, all he does is argue about stuff with his friends: “I don’t become dark and ironically evil.”

What snow looks like in Rio

Thiago Marcon premiered his winter collection in Rio De Janeiro. Marcon designed the collection, which uses a colourful array of leather and silk, in Japan, where he was inspired by the dichotomy of the Tokyo winter—the hard lines of urban architecture and the softness of newly fallen snow.




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Newsmakers of the week

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