Newsmakers - Macleans.ca
 

Newsmakers

Oprah Winfrey admits defeat, Japan’s PM dismisses paranormal prattle and British badgers find an unlikely friend


 
Newsmakers

Empics Sport/CP

Last splash

Celebrated Olympian Alexandre Despatie is retiring from diving. Despatie, who has won silver medals in the three-metre springboard event at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and gold medals in the one-metre, three-metre and 10-m events at the world championships, began competing at age 13. Facing his 28th birthday this Saturday, he was forced to finally acknowledge that, for a diver at least, he is ancient. Fellow athletes had always told him that he would know when it was time to go. “At one point I just knew,” Despatie told reporters. “It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Supersized no longer

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson lost 20 lb. in the past year while eating at the fast-food chain “every single day,” he said at an analyst conference. Thompson credits his weight loss to exercise—getting his “butt up” and “working out again,” in his words—noting that, unlike Americans, Europeans do a lot of walking so it’s rare to see them “very, very heavy.” Meanwhile, McDonald’s just unveiled its highest-calorie item ever: the “Mega Potato,” sold in Japan, three-quarters of a pound of fries weighing in at about 1,140 calories. Salads make up just about two per cent of the chain’s sales; Thompson said he doesn’t see them being a “major growth driver” in the future.

Cancer’s red-carpet week

Two movie stars lent some unexpected sex appeal to cancer awareness this week, though each in their own unique way. On Sunday, Angelina Jolie stunned fans in a sleek Yves Saint Laurent dress at the London premiere of Brad Pitt’s new film, World War Z. It was the 37-year-old’s first public appearance since revealing she underwent a double mastectomy, which decreased the likelihood of her developing breast cancer by more than 80 per cent. “I’ve been very happy to see the discussion of women’s health expanded,” Jolie said. Meanwhile, Michael Douglas seemingly attributed his throat cancer to oral sex during an interview with the Guardian. “This particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes from cunnilingus,” the 68-year-old said, adding, “and if you have it, cunnilingus is also the best cure for it.” The actor’s spokesman later said the Behind the Candelabra star was merely discussing what causes oral cancer, not that Douglas blames oral sex for his condition.

When an abortion isn’t

An El Salvadoran woman, known to the world only by the name “Beatriz,” has won the right to terminate a pregnancy in Central America’s most anti-abortion country—sort of. Beatriz, who has been told that she could die if she has her baby and that the fetus cannot survive after it is born, took her fight against the country’s abortion ban all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against her. The country’s health minister, Maria Isabel Rodriguez, promptly found a loophole, declaring that Beatriz could have a Caesarian section to end the pregnancy early. “This is not an abortion,” Rodriguez said, explaining the apparent flip-flop. “It is an induced birth, which is something else.”

A true cinematic stinker

When a worker at a Calgary dump uncovered a dirty piece of film that apparently showed a man kneeling over a corpse, he contacted police believing he’d found evidence of a possible homicide. Turns out, it was actually the remnants of a flop. According to the gossip website TMZ, Calgary police cleaned up the film fragment and found Canadian comedian Dan Aykroyd’s face under the grime, but were unable to identify the film (Aykroyd has nearly 100 credits to his name). Turns out it was 1990’s Loose Cannons, an unsuccessful venture. “The movie should have been left in the landfill where it belongs,” Aykroyd told TMZ.

A badger cull under pressure

Mr. Badger, according to Kenneth Grahame’s kid-lit classic The Wind in the Willows, “hates Society, and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of thing”—and well he might, given what’s lately been planned for his cousins in Britain, where 5,000 badgers will be shot. The cull is aimed at curbing the spread of tuberculosis among local cattle, a scourge thought to be linked to wild badgers. One opponent of the kill is the multifaceted Brian May—the guitar god of the band Queen, astrophysicist and animal activist—who calls it a “crime against our wildlife” that “scapegoats the badger.” May helped lead a march last weekend against the cull.

Mazel tov to a real mensch

You might not know it from his name, but Arvind Mahankali knows his Yiddish. The 13-year-old student spent two years trying to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee for North American kids, and both times he was eliminated on words derived from German. But this time, pushing retirement at the age of 13, the Indian-American student from New York got an English transliteration of a Yiddish word, “knaidel” (those matzo balls that go with chicken soup) and aced it, winning the competition and drawing a relieved reaction from the audience. He said that “the German curse has turned into a German blessing.” Or it could just prove that Yiddish is more fun than German.

Busting ghost rumours

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe isn’t the least bit scared of ghosts. The leader of the world’s fourth-largest economy felt compelled to reassure the public of as much recently after an opposition member asked why Abe had yet to move into the official residence—despite having assumed office seven months ago. In his defence, the mansion in question has quite a history. Built in 1929, the house was the target of two coup d’états. In 1932, the prime minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was killed by rampaging Japanese naval officers. Four years later, about 1,400 rebel troops killed several political leaders and occupied the residence. Rumours have long swirled that marching footsteps echo through the hallway at night.

And you get a diploma!

About a year ago, when Harvard University president Drew Faust invited Oprah Winfrey to address the graduates of 2013, she could barely imagine what she’d say to the successful young go-getters. Because of the dismal performance of her Oprah Winfrey Network, “it was the worst time in my professional life,” she said in her May 30 speech. “I was stressed, I was frustrated, and I was, quite frankly, embarrassed.” In classic Oprah fashion, she turned it into a life lesson: “Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” The network is expected to be profitable this year. And no, Winfrey told the grads, there were no prizes hidden under their seats.

What would Capote think?

He’s played a drug addict in the past, but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s real-life heroin habit had him checking into rehab in late May. The Oscar-winning actor, 45, told TMZ he’d been clean for 23 years but a year ago started using prescription pills, which led to him to snorting heroin. He finished off a 10-day stint in detox May 24 and credits “a great group of family and friends” with aiding his recovery. The brush with drugs hasn’t slowed down Hoffman’s busy schedule though; he’s already back on set in Europe for the filming of indie flick God’s Pocket.

Fair and balanced? Not so fast.

Fox News is widely considered a safe haven for political conservatives, but that didn’t stop two of the network’s female anchors from slamming their male colleagues as sexist over their views on a study illustrating the rise of female breadwinners. A panel of men on Fox’s Lou Dobbs Tonight lamented the new stats—women are the main source of income in 40 per cent of U.S. households—saying the shift is harmful to society and against human nature. Fox’s Megyn Kelly clearly did not agree, opening her America Live segment with: “I have a whole list of studies saying your science is wrong and your facts are wrong.” Added fellow host Greta Van Susteren on Twitter: “Have these men lost their minds?”

 


 
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