Newsmakers: June 1-7, 2012

Kathie Lee makes viewers cringe, François Hollande caps CEO pay, and a bad week for the Biebs

by Nicholas Köhler, Kate Lunau, Chris Sorensen and Michael Petrou

Newsmakers

Photo by Abacapress.com

Bieber’s bloopers

Justin Bieber had a very bad week. First the Canadian pop star was accused of hitting a photographer in Los Angeles. Next, he was concussed after running into a glass wall on a Paris stage (and blacked out backstage for 15 seconds). And in Norway, fans mobbed him in the streets of Oslo, fainting, pushing, and forcing Bieber to take to Twitter to beg his teen fans to “please listen to the police.” No one was hurt, but none of this will change the opinion Bieber expressed to GQ magazine last month: “You can’t trust anybody.”

Justice for Egypt?

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades before the Arab Spring forced him from power last February, has been sentenced to life in prison for his complicity in the deaths of protesters rising against him. This wasn’t enough for Mubarak’s many opponents, who wanted the death penalty and took to the streets in anger when they didn’t get it. Many are also furious at the acquittals given to top police chiefs allegedly involved in the killings. More than a year after the Arab Spring, the military still decides who will be punished and who will not. They were willing to sacrifice Mubarak, but not his henchmen.

A lulu of a fight

Few politicians enjoy the affections of their citizenry as fulsomely as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, known to all by a sleek and simple term of endearment, Lula. So it’s especially arresting to find him enmeshed in a nasty public feud, with a high court judge no less, whose allegations connect him with a vote-buying scandal. Gilmar Mendes says Lula pressured him to delay a trial involving more than 30 politicians with the governing Workers Party, including many Lula pals. Lula denies the claim. Still, his Workers Party, led by acolyte President Dilma Rousseff, looks worse for wear: seven cabinet ministers have resigned in the last year due to scandal.

Awkward morning TV

Kathie Lee Gifford can’t be accused of over-researching her interviews. Talking to Canadian actor Martin Short on the Today Show, she asked him about his relationship with his wife Nancy, not realizing that she died of cancer two years ago. Short politely chose not to correct her, leading to an awkward moment when Gifford cooed that “you’re still, like, in love!” and added “why?” Gifford apologized on the air after the commercial break, and praised Short for handling her mix-up “with enormous grace and kindness.”

Splashdown

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft landed in the Pacific this week, completing its unmanned mission to the International Space Station—making SpaceX the first private company to reach it, a feat previously achieved only by the U.S., Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency. “Splashdown successful!!” tweeted CEO Elon Musk, an outspoken supporter of commercializing the space industry. Musk, 40, who also heads Tesla Motors and has said he hopes to retire on Mars, was elated. “This,” said the entrepreneurial wunderkind—who inspired Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of a genius billionaire in the recent Iron Man movies—“is going to be recognized as a significant step in space travel.”

A Whitehorse romp

Fiona Solon is a government payroll clerk in Whitehorse who moonlights as a producer of the Yukon’s only burlesque show. “Varietease.” It opened in Whitehorse this week, a smorgasbord of sexy, though never sleazy, seduction, with cancan dancers, roller derby girls and a ukulele player. Not exactly the great Paris burlesque the Crazy Horse. Indeed, Solon and fellow producer Brian Fidler had never seen a burlesque show before mounting Varietease, and sought to find the theatrical genre’s true meaning from the remote Yukon north. “Whatever it was,” Solon told a local reporter, “I knew it wasn’t happening here.”

(Almost) a million dollar baby

The first photos of Jessica Simpson’s baby daughter, Maxwell Drew, were published in People exactly one month after her birth. In an exclusive interview with the magazine, the singer says, “Maxwell has taken over everything!” and that she and fiancé Eric Johnson “stare at her all the time.” Breastfeeding has become a “full-on job,” says Simpson, who also admits she’s reluctant to give up that time with Maxwell so Johnson can bottlefeed her breast milk. “I miss holding her.” For the right price, however, Simpson appears happy to share Maxwell with others: People paid $800,000 for the photos and interview.

War on big soda

Tourists visiting New York City can still gobble giant pizza slices and calorie-rich cheesecake, but they won’t be able to wash it down with a river of soda. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is continuing his war on NYC’s waistline with a ban on selling sugary drinks larger than 16 oz., roughly equivalent to a small drink at a fast-food joint. His reasoning: “If it’s bigger, you eat more. If somebody put a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less.” The billionaire mayor has already outlawed trans fats and required restaurants to list calories on menus. The Big Apple? Not for much longer.

Olympic snub

Speaking in Copenhagen, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Russia for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Russians “are telling me they don’t want to see a civil war,” she said. “I have been telling them their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war. The Syrians are not going to listen to us. They will listen, maybe, to the Russians.” Vladimir Putin, one of Assad’s few remaining allies, seemed unmoved. The Russian president did, however, announce his intention to skip the London Games, even though Russia will host the Winter Olympics in 2014, marking a further turn away from the West.

Corey Hart’s return

Smouldering and intense during his heyday in the 1980s, Montreal-born pop sensation Corey Hart’s star had been burning a little less brightly since his biggest hits, Sunglasses at Night and Never Surrender, faded from the radio waves. Since then he’s been busy raising his four kids, three girls and a boy. But now Hart is poised to release his first single in 12 years—a groove-injected, club-friendly reworking of a lesser-known 1988 track, Truth Will Set You Free, with a gay-positive subtext. And for the first time in a decade the 50-year-old singer will take the stage to perform the song, at Toronto’s Pride festival. Mayor Rob Ford won’t be in the audience.

Capping their pay

France’s newly elected president is making good on a campaign promise to clamp down on CEO’s giant paycheques. François Hollande, head of the new socialist government, says executives at state-owned companies should not earn more than 20 times their lowest-paid worker, promising cuts of more than $1 million for people like Henri Proglio, the CEO of nuclear power group EDF, according to the Financial Times. It’s not an insignificant gesture in a country where state-owned enterprises form the backbone of the industrial sector, and it’s meant to solidify the support of angry French voters who rejected calls for austerity to cure Europe’s debt disease.

Fox under fire

Fox News producer Chris White went from hero to goat in just 24 hours. The news network aired White’s video “Hope and Change,” a four-minute attack on the Obama presidency, and host Steve Doocy praised White on-air for his great work “reliving the last four years.” But when the video was attacked as a campaign ad in all but name, Fox’s executive VP announced it “was not authorized at the senior executive level,” and CNN withdrew its offer to hire White away.

Bankers and the Boss

Bruce Springsteen, long-time friend of the working man, took on bankers, railing against them as “greedy thieves” and “robber barons,” at a sold-out show at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. His message, delivered in German, comes as Europe struggles through dark economic times, and difficult questions over its future. “This song is for all those who are struggling,” he said, before introducing Jack of All Trades, a withering attack on bankers that includes the lyrics: “The banker man grows fat, working man grows thin.” The Boss has a special connection to the city. In ’88, he played in the former East Berlin, the biggest rock show in East German history, a concert some credit with helping bring down the wall. Springsteen spoke out about the “barriers” keeping East Germans in their part of the city.

Vintage Tiger

“Boy, I hit it good today,” Tiger Woods said Sunday, after winning the Memorial Tournament, and boy, was he right. The key was a magnificent chip shot toward the water on the 10th hole—what golf great Jack Nicklaus dubbed “the most unbelievably gutsy shot I’ve ever seen.”

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