Out of this world:
It’s official: there is nothing Chris Hadfield can’t do. High school scholar? Check. Elite fighter pilot? Check. First Canadian to walk in space? Check. And now, just days into his mission as the inaugural Canadian commander of the International Space Station, Hadfield has set the standard yet again—recording the first-ever song from space. Dressed in khaki shorts and a pair of grey tube socks, the Sarnia, Ont., native strummed an acoustic guitar while orbiting the Earth. His song of choice? Jewel in the Night, a Christmas tune written by his brother Dave Hadfield: “Wherever we go / In all of the wonders above / With all that we bring / There’s no finer thing / Than this message, this promise of love.”
Private shot, public spat
Facebook’s privacy settings can be utterly infuriating—even for a Zuckerberg. Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, flew into a Twitter rage when she discovered that a marketing director named Callie Schweitzer had tweeted one of her private photos. It was “way uncool,” she charged. But it turned out Schweitzer didn’t actually breach any of the website’s privacy rules; she and Zuckerberg simply shared a mutual friend, and that’s how the photo came to light. Still, Randi used the public spat as an opportunity to lecture the world about the etiquette of online sharing. “Always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly,” she tweeted. “It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency.”
In her footsteps
America has its Kennedys. India can’t seem to move beyond the Gandhis. And now Pakistan has a firmly entrenched political dynasty of its own. Five years to the day after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, announced his arrival on Pakistan’s political stage. “However many Bhuttos you kill, more Bhuttos will emerge,” said the 24-year-old, marking a third generation of Bhuttos in politics. Dynasties elsewhere continue pushing their sons to the political fore. In January, red-haired lawyer Joe Kennedy III will head to Washington after winning a seat in Congress. And 42-year-old Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Indian politics almost since independence, remains the Congress party’s most likely prime ministerial candidate.
Safe at home
Back in 2003, he was one of baseball’s best relief pitchers, a dominant closer for a Florida Marlins club that upset the New York Yankees in a stunning World Series. Two years later, Ugueth Urbina was in a Venezuelan jail cell, accused of attacking two workers on the family farm with a machete and dousing them in gasoline for trespassing. The crime was shocking—but not entirely unprovoked. Months earlier, his mother, Maura Villarreal, was kidnapped for ransom by bandits and held hostage for five months until she was freed by police. So Urbina had ample reason to lash out at someone snooping around his property. Convicted of attempted murder and originally sentenced to 14 years in prison, he was unexpectedly released last week, more than eight years early. For good behaviour.
A lone voice
Since the Islamic Republic was established three decades ago, only one woman has ever served as an Iranian cabinet minister: Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi. She is now a former member of cabinet. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sacked his outspoken health minister after Dastjerdi had the gall to criticize her male colleagues for failing to pay for the import of crucial medication. A gynecologist by trade, she complained on state television that while there is money to import “luxury cars,” the cash earmarked for medicine is nowhere to be found.
Jacob Zuma suffered another attack of foot-in-mouth syndrome—right after being voted in for a second term as leader of the African National Congress. In his first speech since, Zuma told black South Africans they should never try to behave like whites, and that buying a pet dog is part of “white culture.” So too, he added, is walking dogs and spending money on veterinary bills when those dogs get sick. In response, black South Africans began posting photos of themselves on Twitter being “un-African”—i.e. walking their dogs. Read one tweet: “Zuma says owning dogs is un-African. Unlike those old African traditions of owning German cars, Italian suits and Irish whisky.” Zuma, who in August said it was “not right” for women to be single, and once claimed minorities have fewer rights “because that’s how democracy works,” remains massively popular in South Africa, where ailing former president Nelson Mandela—who owned a Rhodesian ridgeback—was released from hospital last week.
Mom and Dad are stalking me
There are helicopter parents. And then there’s David and Julie Ireland. The Kansas couple was so obsessed with keeping tabs on their 21-year-old daughter while she was away at school that they secretly installed electronic tracking software on her computer so they could read her emails and monitor her social media accounts. Mom and dad would show up unannounced and follow her around campus, and harassed University of Cincinnati officials about forcing their daughter into treatment for drugs and mental illness. The incessant stalking reached such absurd levels that Aubrey Ireland had no choice but to take her parents to court and demand a restraining order. A judge agreed. If either parent tries to contact her before September, they could face criminal charges. It was “like I was a dog with a collar on,” Aubrey said. “It’s just been really embarrassing and upsetting.”
Sorry, Russian orphans: President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens, a blow to Moscow-Washington relations that will also leave children stranded in Russia just as they were about to go to a new home. To gain public support for the bill, Russian TV aired sensational stories about children being taken to America for lurid purposes, like organ harvesting. In truth, the law was Putin’s way of striking back against the U.S. government for a recent law targeting Russian human rights violators.
Hungry for change
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has drawn worldwide attention to the sorry state of Canada’s First Nations communities with her hunger strike aimed at securing a summit with the Prime Minister and the Governor General. But with attention comes scrutiny, and some are asking why the First Nations leader from northern Ontario appeared to be raising money as part of her campaign. The official Facebook page of Spence’s strike invited donors to give to a bank account bearing the name of the chief’s partner, Clayton Kennedy. Spence’s connection to Kennedy has caused her problems in the past: when she was a deputy chief, he was appointed co-manager of Attawapiskat, though she said she recused herself from any discussion of his hiring.
The ultimate phony
Two days after Adam Lanza stormed into Sandy Hook elementary school and opened fire, his so-called “Uncle Jonathan” showed up at a memorial site in Newtown, Conn., and started telling reporters that his “nephew” was popping an antipsychotic drug. Uncle Jonathan was actually Jonathan Lee Riches, a notorious imposter who spends most of his time filing bogus lawsuits against public figures, from Britney Spears to George W. Bush to Martha Stewart. (In one suit, he claimed to have bumped into Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at an al-Qaeda training camp.) Today, the 35-year-old is back behind bars, charged with violating probation.
Too cool for school
Billionaire philanthropist Seymour Schulich knows a thing or two about making money and giving it away. So, after watching high-profile clashes over large donations to universities and academic freedoms, he worries that donor chill could set in. In one dispute, faculty at the universities of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier objected to a partnership with Jim Balsillie’s Centre for International Governance Innovation, while Carleton University was in a fight over a gift from Calgary oil baron Clay Riddell. Even as groups representing schools and profs try to hammer out donor deals that avoid problems in the future, Schulich says donors may look for other causes to support instead of universities: “Why would you be inclined to expose yourself to criticism?”
Can a person learn a language and not know it? So it seems in the curious case of Alun Morgan, an 81-year-old Englishman who suffered a stroke and woke up three weeks later able to speak Welsh. Morgan had been evacuated to Wales during the Second World War, yet never learned the U.K. nation’s distinct Celtic tongue before he left at age 10. Or so he thought: doctors have since diagnosed him with aphasia, a form of brain damage which causes a shift in the brain’s language centre, leaving victims with speech impairment or, in very rare cases, a foreign accent. Experts believe the Welsh must have sunk into his subconscious, to be unlocked by the stroke seven decades later.