Far from the tree
Anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was famously South Africa’s first black president, and now his granddaughters are seeking fame of their own as stars of a new reality-TV series. Being Mandela follows Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini, granddaughters of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. During the 13-episode first season, Swati and Zaziwe launch their own clothing line, which shares a name with their grandfather’s autobiography—Long Walk to Freedom. The two insist they aren’t tarnishing the family name; Mandela “loves Toddlers and Tiaras,” Swati told the Associated Press. He won’t be appearing on the show—although Winnie will.
Kapow! A breakthrough.
Batman is now more than 70 years old—and last year, Montreal-based comic artist Becky Cloonan became the first woman ever to draw him for DC Comics, according to a recent profile in O, The Oprah Magazine. Batman isn’t the only character Cloonan, 32, brings to life: she also draws Conan the Barbarian for Dark Horse Comics, and Swamp Thing for DC and is credited for breaking new ground for women in the comics world. When she first got the Batman gig, “I was just excited,” she told the magazine. “I’m drawing Batman!”
A step too far
Polish lawmakers blocked a pro forma vote last week that would have made the country’s first transsexual MP deputy speaker of parliament. Anna Grodzka’s nomination reportedly caused discomfort in conservative Poland, where 93 per cent of the country considers itself Catholic, and mass attendance often tops 55 per cent.
Star U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn still plans to compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, despite suffering a major injury last week after a dramatic crash at the world championships in Austria. Landing a jump in the super G, the four-time World Cup champion’s right leg gave way; Vonn tore two ligaments and broke a bone in her leg. After a successful knee surgery, it seems Vonn left Austria in style: TMZ.com ran a photo of a blond on crutches boarding a private jet belonging to Tiger Woods—her rumoured boyfriend—in Salzburg.
Speaking of Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a top member of the 2014 Olympic planning committee with just one year to go before the Games. Akhmed Bilalov, vice-president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, got the boot after Putin toured sporting sites and learned the ski-jump facility was behind schedule and its cost had ballooned from $40 million to $265 million. With fewer than 365 days to go before the opening ceremonies, the estimated cost of the Games has reached $50 billion, more than five times the original estimate.
No wall for women in shawl
Comedian Sarah Silverman’s sister, Susan, a Jerusalem-based rabbi, and her 17-year-old niece, Hallel, were among 10 women arrested this week at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. They were praying wearing traditional shawls, which are banned for women at the holy site. Silverman says she opposes the ultra-orthodox “hijacking” of the holy site. “The space allowed for women is becoming smaller and smaller,” she told the New York Daily News. “SO proud of my amazing sister and niece for their balls-out civil disobedience,” the comedian tweeted on hearing the news.
Anne of Green Gables is P.E.I.’s most famous redheaded orphan. In a new edition of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic books, though, she’s portrayed on the cover in a saucy pose, combing her fingers through her hair—thick blond hair, to the chagrin of fans. “Anne has red hair. RED HAIR,” one online reviewer fumed on Amazon.com, noting that Anne is 10 when the series begins. “What is up with the bedroom eyes?” The publisher may have taken note. As of this week, the image could no longer be found on Amazon’s site.
He shoots, he snores
One concession that NHL players won in their new agreement is the right to single rooms on the road. Long-established roommates in the Vancouver Canucks are having to adjust to the single life. Inseparable twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin will sleep apart for the first time since joining the league in 2000. While they’re enjoying the break, “We might go back [rooming together] next year,” Daniel told the Vancouver Sun. The change also disrupted the routine of long-time roomies Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler. Bieksa, the first up, always had Kesler’s breakfast ordered and waiting at the restaurant table. “We had a great routine going there,” Bieksa said. “He got oatmeal with a side of berries.” Alex Burrows regrets losing his human alarm clock, Mason Raymond, who saved him from missing many a bus. But no one likely misses rooming with winger Chris Higgins, who’s been known to sleepwalk. As a New York Ranger, he freaked out first-time roomie Marc Staal when he went for a stroll. “One night—I never roomed with him again,” said Higgins.
I’m a tortoise, what’s 30 years?
For the Almeida family of Rio de Janeiro, the disappearance 30 years ago of their pet tortoise, Manuela, was a mystery. They assumed she’d plodded off through an open door. Wrong. In fact, she’d wandered into a storage room used by family patriarch Leonel. After his death this year, the family unlocked and emptied the room. They were stunned to find Manuela alive and well, nesting in a box with an old record player. “No one can understand how she survived 30 years in there,” said daughter Lenita, who’d been given Manuela as a childhood pet. “It’s unbelievable.” But not impossible, Rio veterinarian Jeferson Pires told Brazil’s TV Globo. Red-footed tortoises can go years without food, he said. He suspects Manuela dined on termites from the wooden floor.
Three chords and you’re out
Pragaash, an all-girl rock band made up of high school students in Indian-run Kashmir, has disbanded after their performance was declared “un-Islamic.” The girls—bass guitarist Aneeqa Khalid, singer Noma Nazir and drummer Farah Deeba—had played in a battle-of-the-bands competition, winning fans but triggering threats and condemnation by a Muslim leader. “When girls and young women stray from the rightful path . . . this kind of non-serious activity can become the first step toward our destruction,” Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad said in a statement. “We respect their opinion and we have quit,” an unnamed member of Pragaash told BBC Hindi. “But I don’t know why we are being stopped.” Meantime the government will hunt down and arrest those who posted threats on the band’s Facebook page, pledged Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
The price of a bad review
McMaster University and its associate librarian Dale Askey are being sued for millions by a British and New York academic publishing house that didn’t like Askey’s blog post calling it a “vanity press.” Askey posted his comments about Edwin Mellen Press in 2010 while working at Kansas State University. He said there were few scholars working as editors and its books were sold at “egregiously high prices,” reports the Inside Higher Ed website. The company denies those allegations and filed suit in Ontario Superior Court. It seeks $3.5 million from McMaster, calling it “vicariously liable” for Askey’s statements. It also claims more than $1 million in damages in a second suit filed against Askey alone. James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, called Mellen’s move a “deeply concerning” attempt to silence Askey’s academic free speech.
Fit for a king
More than 525 years after Richard III was killed, a new battle has erupted over where his recently discovered remains should be buried. Leicester, where he lay after being felled on nearby Bosworth Field, made the first claim. Then there’s London’s Westminster Abbey, where 17 other monarchs, as well as Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, are buried. Andrew Roberts and many other historians want the last monarch to die in battle to be buried there, as is “only right for a former head of state.” The City of York wants the last Yorkist king buried in the seat of his power. While clergy of York Minster have sided with Leicester, local politicians are amping up the pressure with an online petition. “To be perfectly blunt, the people of Leicester misplaced him for more than 500 years,” thundered Yorkshire politician Tom Fox. “Would we really wish to entrust his remains to them again? I think not.”
Baby steps to democracy
Jordan’s Queen Rania watched her husband, King Abdullah II, inaugurate a new parliament in Amman this week. Abdullah is pushing ahead with democratization, ceding more power to parliament, after calls for reforms and widespread anger at corrupt officials.