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Newsmakers: Feb. 24-Mar. 1, 2011

Carla Bruni’s reverse makeover, B.C.’s cops are red-faced yet again, and Stephen Colbert pens a book—for kids


 
Newsmakers

Imaginechina/Corbis

Time is on his side

Silvio Berlusconi has skated on a bribery charge that could have netted the 75-year-old serious jail time. Judges ruled the statute of limitations expired on a charge that the former Italian prime minister paid lawyer David Mills US$600,000 to lie about the dealings of his media empire—the sixth time cases against him have been dropped due to expired time limits. He’s still, however, facing charges he paid for sex with dancer Ruby the Heart Stealer when she was 17 years old—a case where the calendar isn’t working in his favour.

Home wreckers

The goal that finally snapped the Detroit Red Wings’ historic home-winning streak at 23 came in a shootout, after an epic match between the Wings and the Vancouver Canucks that saw three goals in the game’s last six minutes. Vancouver’s Alex Burrows celebrated his streak-ending goal by curling round the boards, feigning breaking his stick over his knee. In the stands above, tears were shed by the capacity crowd, who’d stood throughout the toe-curling climax. Until the Canucks came to town, no visiting team had won at the Joe Louis Arena since Nov. 3. “Sedinery” was on full display in Detroit; somehow, Henrik Sedin’s blind pass from behind the net found his twin Daniel, who tied the game with just 15 seconds left. Asked how he could possibly have found Daniel, then floating near the blue line, Henrik simply smiled and tapped his head.

A swimmer throws in the towel

In September 2010, Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly took a much-publicized swim at Black Rock Beach to celebrate one of his greatest achievements: the cleanup of the city’s harbour. But stains on his reputation contributed to his decision last week not to seek re-election after 12 years in office. “Clearly it was time to make a change,” he told the Chronicle-Herald. He began to bleed credibility last year after it was revealed the Halifax Regional Municipality gave a secret $400,000 grant to promoter Harold MacKay for money-losing concerts such as the Black Eyed Peas and the Country Rocks festival with Johnny Reid and Alan Jackson. Last week, the Coast weekly reported Kelly failed in his role as executor to discharge to beneficiaries the estate of family friend Mary Thibeault. Kelly blamed his “tardiness” as executor on his “90-plus” hour workweek, which he said had also cost him his marriage.

Women’s No. 1 priority

A Guangzhou student has launched a campaign sure to strike a chord with desperate women everywhere. Li Tingting led 20 placard-waving women into a men’s toilet in China to demand equal wait times for both sexes. “We want senior officials to pay attention,” she told Agence France-Presse. Provincial officials, and those in Hong Kong, have agreed to a 50 per cent increase in the number of women’s stalls. Now she’ll take her movement to Beijing.

Salvaging the family name

Dave Pickton, brother of serial killer Robert Pickton, has created a foundation to provide food and water to the starving of Ghana. Dave lived on the same Port Coquitlam farm that was the scene of his brother’s murder spree. While he wasn’t charged, he’s lived under a cloud; his recent sightings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, his brother’s old hunting ground, prompted women’s groups to post warnings. The Pickton Foundation website shows a benign Dave, the owner of a bulldozing company, in an African robe. He was shocked by the squalour in a recent business visit, he said: “Homeless people in Vancouver, they have clean water, they can get a free meal,” he told the Province. “These people have nothing, you can’t compare it.” “What about the children of the women your brother murdered?” asked Lori-Ann Ellis, whose relative was murdered by Robert Pickton. “These people are on welfare, in foster systems. Why don’t you raise money for them?”

Carla’s charm offensive

Stretch pants, undyed roots, dowdy cardigans—welcome to a whole, new Carla Bruni. With her husband, French president Nicholas Sarkozy, battling to undo his image as “president bling-bling,” as he faces the possibility of a humiliating defeat in spring elections, Bruni is undergoing an apparent makeover: less Jackie O, more Jackie-ohno. In a new cover for TV Magazine, The former supermodel appeared in minimal makeup, socks and a chunky sweater, cuddling baby Giulia—a far cry from the low-cut red dress she rocked on the cover of Vogue. In the free daily 20 Minutes, meanwhile, the Italian heiress professed her love for low-brow reality TV.

Hearing what others see

Dean du Plessis hasn’t let the fact that he was born blind deter him from his role as one of Zimbabwe’s top cricket commentators, both as a broadcaster and a newspaper columnist. He uses his encyclopedic knowledge of the game and players’ voices to describe events that others see. The microphones on the pitch give clues to identify players, and he reads the play from the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. “If I turn my microphones down,” he told Agence France-Presse last week, “I really would be blind.” Former national coach Kevin Curran is in awe of his ability. “I often say, how does he know that? How does he know that?”

Tilting at windmills

Two small-town Nova Scotians who rose to fame and fortune are on opposite sides of a windy debate in their home province. Anne Murray, the songbird from Springhill, returns each summer like, well, a snowbird, to Pugwash, on the province’s north shore. She summered there as a child; now she golfs at nearby Fox Harb’r, a luxury resort owned by Tim Hortons magnate Ron Joyce. Murray is alarmed by a 12-turbine wind farm proposed for just outside Pugwash. Last week she wrote to Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter to say the towering turbines will have a “catastrophic impact” on the local economy and environment. Joyce, born in nearby Tatamagouche, disagrees. He said the world needs alternatives to fossil fuels, and sees “no major negatives in countries that have them,” he told the National Post.

Green eggs, red face

The things in your pockets / should stay where they are / the cameras are watching / because you’re a star. Zac Efron, the 24-year-old heartthrob and star of Disney’s High School Musical films learned that in spades when he reached into his pocket while striding on the carpet during the Hollywood premiere of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. Out fell a foil-covered condom, to his apparent embarrassment. The video went viral, gaining great publicity for the film, which co-stars Danny DeVito and Taylor Swift. More importantly, it showed a really cool guy practising safe sex. As the good Dr. Seuss said in another context: If you never did, you should / These things are fun and fun is good.

Sorry, kids

British author J.K. Rowling has written a new book, five years after finishing the phenomenally successful seven-volume Harry Potter series. This time the book is aimed at adults, not children. She has a new publisher, Little, Brown and Company, which has yet to reveal the title or the release date. “The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me,” Rowling said in a statement. Leaping into the void in children’s lit is TV satirist Stephen Colbert, who—after interviewing famous children’s writer Maurice Sendak, author of the beloved Where the Wild Things Are—followed through on a threat to write his own book. The result: I Am a Pole (And So Can You!) is about a flagpole’s quest for identity. “I hope the minutes you and your loved ones spend reading it,” said Colbert, “are as fulfilling as the minutes I spent writing it.”

Kinder, gentler, grumpier

He’s the only Canadian on death row in the U.S., and Ronald Smith is not feeling the love from his government. It took a Federal Court order to force Stephen Harper’s government to reluctantly request clemency for Smith, who was sentenced to death in Montana in 1982. “I was a little grumpy about it,” he said of Canada’s “tepid” assistance, in an interview with Canadian Press last week. The decision whether he lives or dies rests with Montana’s parole board and Gov. Brian Schweitzer this May. He and an accomplice shot and killed Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man Jr., and stole their car. Jessica Crawford, Running Rabbit’s daughter, said she will ask for clemency after seeing Smith at a hearing and realizing he is just a man, not the monster of her imagination. “I was a monster at the time,” said Smith. “It’s not who I am now.”

Brave stance?

“Oh, brave band of brothers!” snarked the Vancouver Sun after four former B.C. attorneys-general came together to call for the legalization of marijuana—long after they left office, when they could have made a difference. “I am going to leave the marijuana debate to the federal government. It’s in their sole sphere of responsibility,” said Premier Christy Clark, when asked of the letter. “Brave. So very brave,” said the Sun. “People are getting whacked in public, the province is awash in dirty money, but, you know, it’s Ottawa’s problem.”

All-stars off the court

The notorious Nicki Minaj kissed her label boss, Lil Wayne—sporting $1-million headphones—at last week’s NBA All-Star Game. Minaj, last seen taunting the Catholic Church at the Grammys, was the game’s featured performer. Also in the audience were Drake, Cee-Lo Green, and Mary J. Blige.


 
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